We're down to just nine days before brutal sequestration cuts kick in, undermining the economy, the military, and public needs. At this point, it'd be a mistake to suggest the bipartisan talks have stalled, since there no talks -- Democrats have unveiled a sequester alternative, and Republicans have not; Democrats have said they're open to compromise, and Republican have said they aren't. The probability of avoiding next week's mess is quickly approaching zero.
With this in mind, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has a 900-word op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the subject, devoted almost entirely to a desperate attempt to avoid blame. In the larger context, it's only mildly annoying that Boehner invests more energy in pointing fingers than working on a solution, but it's far worse that the Speaker peddles blatant falsehoods, lacking enough respect for the public and the political world to be honest with them.
During the summer of 2011, as Washington worked toward a plan to reduce the deficit to allow for an increase in the federal debt limit, President Obama and I very nearly came to a historic agreement. Unfortunately our deal fell apart at the last minute when the president demanded an extra $400 billion in new tax revenue -- 50% more than we had shaken hands on just days before.
Actually, during the summer of 2011, Boehner and his party held the nation hostage, threatening to crash the American economy on purpose unless their unconditional demands were met. Obama offered a far-too-generous "grand bargain," and the Speaker balked when he realized his own caucus wouldn't tolerate the modest tax increases.
...President Obama was determined not to face another debt-limit increase before his re-election campaign. Having just blown up one deal, the president scuttled this bipartisan, bicameral agreement. His solution? A sequester.
This is insane. As the president scrambled to pay the GOP's ransom, so Republicans wouldn't follow through on their threats to hurt Americans on purpose, Obama accepted over $1.2 trillion in spending cuts with no revenue. Boehner said that was inadequate. With time running out, the two leaders agreed to a sequester to give policymakers time for further fiscal talks. Obama pushed for a sequester that was 50% revenue, 50% cuts, but Boehner refused that, too. Eventually they agreed to 50% defense cuts, 50% non-defense domestic cuts, and the Speaker agreed to let the hostage live another day.
Ultimately, the super committee failed to find an agreement, despite Republicans offering a balanced mix of spending cuts and new revenue through tax reform.
Republicans on the committee didn't offer new revenue; they offered tax breaks they said might someday produce new revenue.
As a result, the president's sequester is now imminent.
To call this "the president's sequester" is idiotic. Republicans demanded a ransom, and at the time, boasted about the sequester they said they put into the law. Boehner and his GOP cohorts voted for all of this, making it the nation's sequester.
Both parties today have a responsibility to find a bipartisan solution to the sequester. Turning it off and erasing its deficit reduction isn't an option.
Sure it is. Congress doesn't have to make these cuts -- lawmakers can choose to simply turn it off. It would take five minutes and save us all a great deal of pain.
What Congress should do is replace it with other spending cuts that put America on the path to a balanced budget in 10 years, without threatening national security.
Even members of Boehner's own caucus realize this is absurd.
Having first proposed and demanded the sequester, it would make sense that the president lead the effort to replace it.
The president didn't propose or demand the sequester. Lying about the facts won't improve their accuracy.
Unfortunately, he has put forth no detailed plan that can pass Congress.
The president has put forth a detailed plan that includes sacrifices from both sides.
[T]he Senate -- controlled by his Democratic allies -- hasn't even voted on a solution, let alone passed one.
The House hasn't even voted for a solution, let alone passed one, either. The Speaker should probably be aware of this.
By contrast, House Republicans have twice passed plans to replace the sequester with common-sense cuts and reforms that protect national security.
House Republicans twice passed a ridiculous alternative that couldn't pass Congress or get the president's signature, and they did so in the 112th Congress. News flash: we're in the 113th Congress, and bills can't carry over.
The president has repeatedly called for even more tax revenue, but the American people don't support trading spending cuts for higher taxes.
Boehner should never speak for the American people, since the American mainstream generally has contempt for Congress and the Republican agenda. Regardless, Obama is calling for closing tax loopholes, and polls shows voters siding with the White House, not the radicalized congressional GOP.
The president got his higher taxes -- $600 billion from higher earners, with no spending cuts -- at the end of 2012.
And by this logic, Boehner got his spending cuts -- over $1.2 trillion worth, with no new revenue -- in 2011. Does the Speaker not remember 2011?
Republicans' willingness to do what is necessary to save these [retirement-security] programs is well-known. But after four years, we haven't seen the same type of courage from the president.
What's "well-known" is that Boehner and his party have voted to end Medicare, replacing it with a voucher scheme, and occasionally support privatizing Social Security out of existence. What's also "well-known" is that the president has expressed a willingness to approve "reforms" to social-insurance programs as part of a bipartisan compromise, but can't get Republicans to meet him half-way.
The president's sequester is the wrong way to reduce the deficit, but it is here to stay until Washington Democrats get serious about cutting spending.
Washington Democrats have already cut spending, and are prepared to cut even more if Republicans would compromise a little bit.
Reading this breathtakingly dishonest op-ed, I can't help but wonder about the House Speaker's frame of mind. Either John Boehner actually believes the transparent nonsense he wrote for the Wall Street Journal, which would mean the Speaker is alarmingly ignorant about the basics of current events, he's deliberately trying to deceive the public, counting on Americans to be foolish enough to buy demonstrable falsehoods.
Either way, Boehner's mendacious piece is a profound disappointment, and beneath the dignity of his office. If the Speaker is still capable of shame, he should be embarrassed to peddle such nonsense.