SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 14, 2013

Our view: Sequester a failure on both sides


The Salem News

---- — As the sequestration cuts begin, it is crystal-clear to the American people that our elected federal officials are more interested in playing politics than in sound government.

House Speaker John Boehner called off talks that could’ve stopped the sequestration cuts from going into effect the next day. This was after President Barack Obama offered numerous proposals of budget cuts that were all turned down by the House GOP, mostly because the president insisted on tax increases to accompany the cuts.

Obama also proposed a cut in the corporate tax and a steeper tax cut for manufacturers by closing loopholes in the tax code. But House Republicans said no.

In addition, Obama offered to reduce spending in health care programs such as Medicare by $400 billion over 10 years, change an inflation formula for government benefits that would result in lower cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and other programs and reduce other spending, for total reductions of $900 billion over 10 years. House Republicans said no.

Those cuts, together with about $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction already achieved over the past two years through spending cuts and a year-end tax increase on taxpayers making more than $400,000, would achieve a $4 trillion deficit reduction target. But House Republicans were still dissatisfied, in large part because of the accompanying proposal to raise taxes.

Now, American citizens are left to wonder whether Obama’s foes are going too far in their opposition to his proposals. They — House Republicans and Obama — chose to let sequestration begin, despite the indiscriminate funding cuts that come with it. This is simply bad government — and bad politics.

We elect our legislators to navigate the labyrinth of public finance carefully and expertly so that the country ends up in the best place. But instead we get indiscriminate hacking. And President Obama is not blameless in this farce. Choosing the path of political expediency, he agreed during his first term to the sequester.

Sequester backers trot out numbers that show that the new cuts won’t really amount to much and are a start in the right direction. But those cuts will mean jobs lost, which means people’s livelihoods will suffer. The job losses won’t be massive, but they’ll feel massive to anyone who loses a job because politicians couldn’t find a compromise.

It’s time for House Republicans and Obama to have serious talks about how to prevent future economic crises so the next four years won’t be a series of fiscal cliffs that dominate Washington’s time while needed policy changes go by the wayside.