Morning Jolt – February 20, 2013By Jim Geraghty
Here's your Wednesday Morning Jolt.
National Review Online
The Sequester Pester
It's kind of fascinating to see President Obama pursue a strategy of rallying the public in opposition to the sequester, because I think most observers would agree that the American people have a severe case of Washington Crisis Fatigue.
The president's rallying cry is, "Rise up and call Congress to stop this!" And the American people look at what seems like a rerun of previous spending fights, shrug, and say, "meh."
I'll turn to an unexpected source, Megan Carpentier of Raw Story, to set the stage of our national exhaustion and cynicism:
The latest fight -- over what is termed "sequester" inside the Beltway and which politicos and reporters alike have repeated ad infinitum without much explanation to their constituents and readers -- is in fact just another continuation of the ongoing budget fights over which Republicans and Democrats have threatened government shutdowns for more than two years.
Eighteen months ago, after months of threats and posturing, President Obama suggested and Congressional Republicans and Democrats agreed to create a magical deadline to get their [stuff] together or else be forced to explain a rash of immediate spending cuts to the American people. Both sides agreed to the deal, figuring that the other would face a humiliating defeat in the 2012 elections; instead, the elections insured a continuation of the dysfunctional status quo and the continued unwillingness of anyone to behave like a political leader rather than a political brawler.
And yet, somehow, very few people outside the echo chamber can be forced to care. Why? Because we've all seen this little one-act play out before, enough times that it's hard to take it seriously. There's no dramatic filibuster where a Senator stands for hours reading from a cookbook or The Federalist Papers, no video footage of GSA workers being locked out of their offices or postal sorting machines sitting idle, no actual effect on anyone's day-to-day life, the political rhetoric on the Hill or the situation of the federal budget. We all assume that they'll sit around pointing fingers and calling one another names like a bunch of school kids until the very last minute, when they'll hammer out another reasonably foolish compromise that keeps the government open for another six months without solving the fundamental dispute, pat themselves on the back and go back to naming post offices and arguing about gun control and trying to land tortured one-liners on the Sunday talk shows until they're forced to repeat the posturing all over again.
It's tiresome, it's foolish, it's (deliberately, one starts to assume) difficult for most Americans to follow, let alone care about, and it does nothing to solve any of the varying problems identified as such for either side. And the more they do it, they more they'll earn the disapproval and disrespect of Americans on all sides of the political spectrum.
One wonders if we'll get another Chris Christie tirade in the coming days, when you see the fact that Sandy relief funding may be cut as a result of this:
In a statement, Rep. Michael Grimm said, "President Obama has no one to blame but himself for the consequences of sequestration. He proposed it and he insisted on it. As a result, we are faced with reckless, across-the-board cuts that will hurt important local programs, cost us jobs and decrease the amount of Sandy relief funding we fought hard to move through Congress."
"Shifting the blame to Congress is a shameless political tactic," added Grimm (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn). "The House has twice passed legislation to replace the president's job-killing sequester with targeted, common-sense cuts. I voted for both proposals; however, the Senate refused to act on them. If the president is serious about finding a solution, he will reach out to Congress to identify responsible ways to cut $85 billion, something the House has already done. . . . No one should be talking about another round of tax hikes, when sequestration can be easily avoided through responsible cuts."
By the way, one reason nobody believes the "CRISIS!" rhetoric can be found in the sentence that immediately follows Grimm's remarks: "Obama's remarks came a day after he returned to Washington from a three-day golfing weekend in Florida."
The sequester must be stopped . . . but only after 18 holes with Tiger!
Charlie Spiering reminds us that back in November 2011, Obama was pledging, "I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off ramps on this one."
Here's a projection of the economic fallout of the sequester: GDP growth in 2013 shrinking from 2.6 percent to 2 percent, costing roughly 700,000 jobs (including reductions in armed forces), pushing the civilian unemployment rate up one quarter of one percentage point, to 7.4 percent. The MacroAdvisers urge, "By far the preferable policy is a credible long-term plan to shrink the deficit more slowly through some combination of revenue increases within broad tax reform, more carefully considered cuts in discretionary spending, and fundamental reform of entitlement programs."
Simpson and Bowles Present, ‘A Good Day to Cut Hard'
Simpson-Bowles held a reunion tour Tuesday.
Derek Thompson of The Atlantic hurls the Scarlet "R" at the pair, declaring that their revised plan looks . . . Republican! (Doesn't he mean it looks more fiscally conservative? As we all know, "Republican" is not a synonym for "person who cuts spending.") Thompson writes:
Whereas the first plan was a roughly even mix of higher taxes and lower spending, the new plan calls for 44 percent* less revenue. When you count the interest payments saved by running smaller deficits, both plans would cut around $4 trillion within a decade.(Hey, didn't we just enact a whole bunch of income tax hikes on January 1?)
The swing toward spending cuts is pretty shocking to me, and I have emailed some budget analysts to make sure I'm fairly comparing the plans.
Why might Bowles and Simpson have proposed such a radically different mix of new taxes and spending cuts? Two reasons.
First, there aren't enough people in Washington who want to raise taxes on anybody making less than $250,000 to make the original $2.6 billion figure work. Second, Congress has demonstrated a fairly strong appetite for scheduling budget cuts. This plan -- which builds on the spending cuts under the Budget Control Act and the new higher tax rates on income over $450,000 -- shifts the weight of deficit reduction toward spending cuts.
Despite the scarlet "R" over at The Atlantic, the Heritage Foundation is offering an unimpressed face worthy of McKayla Maroney:
Doubling down on tax increases. The outline disguises a tax increase in the language of tax reform. Like a wolf in sheep's clothing, the proposal to eliminate or reduce many unidentified tax expenditures would consume an additional $600 billion of taxpayer's money -- on top of the $618 billion already enacted in the fiscal cliff deal. Simpson and Bowles suggest lowering marginal tax rates slightly as well, but only to call this a bipartisan proposal in name. The substance amounts to another massive tax hike on investors and small businesses that would drag down growth.
No structural entitlement reforms. On Medicare, the outline calls for some of the very same price-fixing policies that we know don't work. There is some common ground on increasing Medicare premiums for higher earners, reforming cost sharing, and adjusting benefits to account for population aging -- if that means increasing the age of eligibility. On Social Security, adopting the chained consumer price index (CPI) as a more accurate inflation measure would help program finances. But much more needs to be done.
Heritage's Romina Boccia concludes, "Simpson and Bowles have reappeared on the scene most likely only to see their proposal ignored once again." Yeah, but this is the deficit-reduction version of the latest Die Hard movie: tired stars from past decades doing their old schtick again, hoping new audiences will find it exciting and fresh.
An Actual New Joe Biden Quote: ‘Buy a Shotgun. Buy a Shotgun.'
And now, part of our continuing series, Joe Biden's Tips for Home Defense, and/or Spree Shooters.
In our last episode . . .
"A shotgun would keep you a lot safer -- a double barrel shotgun -- than the assault weapon in somebody's hand who doesn't know how to use it, even one who does know how to use it.
You know. *Points to the camera*
It's harder to use an assault weapon to hit something than it is a shotgun. So, if you want to keep people away in an earthquake, buy some shotgun shells."
And now, today's exciting installment:
Vice President Joe Biden said people don't need high-capacity weapons to protect themselves and that the Obama administration's efforts to reduce gun violence amount to gun safety, not gun control.
"If you want to protect yourself, get a double-barrel shotgun," Mr. Biden said Tuesday in an interview with Parents Magazine. The White House has proposed banning certain high-capacity weapons and Mr. Biden, who says he has two shotguns, said most military-style weapons aren't good for home defense.
"You don't need an AR-15," Mr. Biden said, referring to an assault-style rifle. "It's harder to aim, it's harder to use, and in fact, you don't need 30 rounds to protect yourself. Buy a shotgun. Buy a shotgun."
Nathan Wurtzel asks, "Now what if three people break into your house?"
ADDENDA: Lachlan Markay: "NOT THE ONION: Hamid Karzai and Bob Menendez meet to discuss the scourge of public corruption."