The sequestration spending cuts go into effect one week from today. From all appearances it seems likely that the self imposed March 1st deadline will pass without a bi-partisan debt reduction agreement.
Republicans blame the president for the gridlock. They argue that the president is being unreasonable in demanding the closing of tax loopholes that favor the rich be a part of any plan to reduce the debt. They say that they already gave the president his due by agreeing to a $600 billion dollar tax increase for the top one percent wage earners. They say that having addressed the presidents need for increased revenue it is time for the president to give on spending cuts. Republicans say that rather than negotiate with them in good faith on the details the president has chosen to barnstorm the country on a never ending partisan political campaign.
Here’s the truth.
The president put spending cuts on the table when he and Boehner reached an agreement on what has been referred to “Grand Bargain.” But Boehner could not get his caucus to agree so the deal died. The president has said that those cuts are still on the table. He has said that he will agree to cuts in entitlements and social programs; cuts that will not be looked upon favorably by his base. Just yesterday he reiterated this very fact to a group of liberal activists. Needless to say they were not particularly pleased.
But the president has said that he will not agree to these additional cuts unless they are balanced with the closing of tax loopholes that favor the rich. He said that fixing our nation’s fiscal problems would not be done on the backs of the middle class and the poor. The voters agreed, and returned him to Washington for a second term.
The president is not waging a never ending political campaign. What he is doing is following up on the promises he made in the last campaign; a campaign that he won.
The president ran on the proposition that he would raise taxes on the top one percent and close tax loopholes that enabled large corporations and the very rich to benefit in ways not available to the middle class. He said that while we needed to increase revenues we also needed to cut expenses. While forcing Republicans to agree to the $600 billion tax increase on the rich he implemented over $2 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade; the bulk of which come out of health care and defense spending. Now he is pushing for additional revenues by closing loopholes and offering in return additional spending cuts in the way entitlement benefits are calculated; a substantive change favored by Republicans.
The president is offering a balanced approach to debt and deficit reduction. It is an approach that according every reputable national poll is widely favored by the people. It is the approach that won the president a substantive victory last November.
Republicans have yet to come to grips with the fact that we just had a national election and the president won…BIG! They are living in the Washington bubble; tone deaf to the will of the electorate. They continue to wheel out the same old partisan rhetoric that they have been preaching for years. The people have listened to their austerity approach and they have rejected it. They want a balanced approach where everybody has skin in the game. And they are unwilling to give on social programs until they are satisfied that the very rich have are paying their fair share.
Elections matter. The president is making that point very clear.