As sequestration kicks in, ATR President Grover Norquist has an op-ed up at American Spectator discussing the only good idea President Obama has shared with Americans. He points out that the President, unfortunately, has spent a quite a bit of time denying “paternity” to it.
As Bob Woodward points out on page 326 of The Price of Politics, the sequester was the brainchild of the Obama White House in the days leading up to the final debt limit deal in August 2011. And despite “tough love” from the Chicago boys, Woodward is sticking with the facts.
Obama’s pride in the sequester was based on the fact he thought it was a way to avoid real spending cuts. Grover points out that the thinking went as follows:
Republicans in 2011 demanded $2.5 trillion in real spending reduction in return for giving the President a $2.5 trillion increase in his debt limit. For months the president whined and stamped his feet, demanding that the $2.5 trillion be made up of equal parts: real tax hikes now and phantom spending restraint someday. He had two reasons to think this stratagem would work. First, it worked in 1982 against Reagan. And second, it worked 8 years later in 1990 against George H.W. Bush. In 1982 and 1990 the tax hikes were real and spending went up rather than down—even from projected levels.
Grover points out that McConnell and Boehner weren’t dumb enough to fall for this trick, insisting on spending cuts alone.
The August deal was roughly a $1 trillion set of cuts in domestic discretionary spending and the establishment of a “super committee” that was charged to come up with the rest of the $2.5 trillion in borrowing authority the president was granted in the law. If the super committee couldn’t find the additional savings, the law guaranteed a sequester would take place in 2013 to make up the difference. The Democrats on the super committee wanted $1.6 trillion in higher taxes plus $400 billion in more “stimulus” spending. This was, not surprisingly, a no-go and the sequester was the backup already in law.
Obama mistakenly thought that the sequester, which equally cut from Pentagon expenses and non-defense spending, would force Republicans to vote for a tax hike to make sure they didn’t actually have to cut spending. He didn’t anticipate that the GOP would share a common belief with the American people that the government can afford to grow slower than the President planned.
So now Obama is reduced to the equivalent of denouncing his own baby as too ugly to present in public.
House and Senate Republicans have made it clear that they are open to alternative ways to save the same amount of money—$1.2 trillion over the decade. But there will be no tax hike and no loosening of the spending spigot.