The “sequester” is a terrible idea. It will do terrible things to the economy and the lives of millions of Americans. It was a terrible idea from the beginning, when it was born of an ugly deal on the “fiscal cliff.” It will be disastrous for the country, and cost up to 1 million American jobs — in the middle of an ongoing jobs crisis. But it’s not inevitable. The sequester is a crisis manufactured by Congress. Congress can and should simply repeal it.
But for the moment, it’s looking like that’s not going to happen. Republicans are running out the clock, either out of plain ol’ meanness and anger, or because of some misguided gamble that obstruction will work this time, that Americans will blame the president for bringing the economy to a screeching halt, and the GOP will finally make Barack Obama a one-term president. The sequester is turning out to be a losing bet for the GOP.
Republicans would bear more of the blame for a failure to reach a deal on the looming federal spending cuts known as the sequester, but most Americans are tuned out of the debate and many don’t oppose allowing the cuts to go into effect.
A new survey from the Pew Research Center and USA Today — the first wide-ranging poll to look at the issue of the sequester — shows a failure to reach a deal would lead 49 percent of Americans to blame congressional Republicans and 31 percent to blame President Obama.
This isn’t all that surprising. As we noted Wednesday, Obama is much more popular than both Congress and the Republican Party, which means he’s likely to come out on top in the blame game.
As we also noted Wednesday, a big reason for that is that, while Washington is in a tizzy about the sequester, the vast majority of Americans haven’t paid much attention. Just 27 percent of Americans say they have heard “a lot” about the cuts, while 43 percent have heard “a little” and 29 percent have heard “nothing at all.” Because Americans aren’t paying attention, they revert to their overall impressions of the two sides.
It’s not as if Republicans haven’t been warned. Conservatives like David Frum and former Virginia governor and Republican National Committee chairman Jim Gilmore have told Republican leadership, “You’re going to lose this.”
“That’s the biggest problem with the Republicans” on Capitol Hill, Gilmore, a former Virginia governor, said this morning over coffee and a ham-and-egg biscuit in Alexandria. “They think spending is the most important thing. It’s not.”
He says he has urged GOP leaders to back down and compromise to prevent the so-called sequester spending cuts from going through – “I keep telling them, you’re going to lose this” – and he has strong words for congressional leaders’ focus on deficit reduction as their primary economy goal.
“Above all things,” he says, “they shouldn’t be talking about debt and deficits. Because the left’s got an answer for them.”
If the sequester happens, it is going to be next to impossible for Republicans to distance themselves from its disastrous results. First of all, prominent Republicans like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have been almost gleefully predicting that the sequester will happen. It was probably all Eric Cantor could do not to greedily rub his hands together when he layered out the GOP strategy on the sequester.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says he hates the sequester:
I don’t want to live with the sequester. I want reductions in spending that make sense. These indiscriminate reductions do not make sense.
But he doesn’t hate it enough to repeal it or replace it with something Democrats and Republicans can agree on. As a result, he says, Republicans will move forward with the sequester.
And we’re going to hurt a lot of people. And it’s up to the president, really, to act now.
But Cantor voted for the sequester. And for all John Boehner’s claims that the sequester “threatens U.S. national security, thousands of jobs and more,” he boasted that he got 98 percent of what he wanted out of the deal that produced it.
That’s why President Obama is still talking about the supposedly “inevitable” sequester. The president is even more popular now than he was in 2009, when he was was still fresh from his historic White House victory. On the issues, Americans are more aligned with President Obama than the GOP.
On the other hand, Americans want Republicans to “knock it off,” already. But the GOP remains haunted by what E.J. Dionne called “the ghost of the tea party,” and driven by a base too blinded by anger at President Obama to allow the Republican party to do what it’s been doing.
Maybe that’s why the GOP is doing what it’s been doing a lot of lately, where the “sequester blame game” is concerned: losing.