Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Is This the End of Our 'Free Lunch' Fantasy?

UPDATEV:  "If only the president’s $3 billion initiative to map human brain activity had been completed by now, we might have the tools to make sense of the carnival that pre-sequester Washington has become. Alas, since the science won’t be in for years, we can only hypothesize about what corner of the neocortex is driving our leaders’ behavior as this latest fiscal precipice draws near.

The first critical but virtually undiscussed question is what portion of the president’s brain (or brain trust) led him to extend 82 percent of the Bush tax cuts on Jan. 1. Recall that even as the sequester was kicked down the road then, President Obama could have let all the Bush tax cuts expire before coming back with big-sounding tax cuts of his own – tax cuts that would have involved far smaller revenue losses over time than had Bush’s. . .

The GOP’s confusion and denial are, if anything, more profound. Even as their attacks on government in the abstract remain as shrill as ever, big-name Republican governors are admitting that Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion (while imperfect) promises too much health security for too many of their struggling constituents to be spurned out of ideological pique. Again, purely as a matter of science, it would be great to know how Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s brains manage to order their mouths to rail against the feds while instructing their hands to pocket the cash.

The more comical GOP brain burp can be seen in the overdue effort by conservative thinkers to craft an agenda that might help average Americans improve their lives. The president is usually the one mocked as remote and Spock-like, but it’s Republican politicians now who seem mysteriously robotic and disengaged. “Hmmm,” Republican officials seem to be saying, as their policy wonks serve up relevant new ideas, “these humans apparently crave opportunity and security. Most interesting...”

Read the Washington Post, This is your brain on sequester.

UPDATE IV:  It is déjà Republi-cons all over again, they are trying once again "to escape responsibility for the adverse impact of automatic spending cuts'.

"Republicans didn’t want the president to raise the debt ceiling on his own because it would usurp their constitutional power of the purse, but they would like him to do sequester cuts on his own? Color me confused."

Read the Washington Post, The GOP’s recycled sequester gambit.  

UPDATE III:  "Congressional Republicans are considering a proposal that would give the Obama administration authority to choose what gets the axe under the automatic spending cuts required by sequestration"  Read The Examiner, Republicans considering bill to give Obama flexibility on sequester cuts.

But Senate Republicans are "against giving away congressional power in order to escape responsibility for the adverse impact of automatic spending cuts expected to go into effect Friday."  Read Politico, Senate GOP debates sequester plan.

I'm bettin that Obama doesn't fall for this Republi-CON.

UPDATE II:  "The Republicans have a remarkably incoherent position on the sequester: It is a terrible policy that must be replaced with a cuts-only solution, they say, but there is no actual GOP plan that fits this description. Republicans seem to be hoping that President Obama will negotiate with himself until they are satisfied.

But he has wisely called their bluff. After all, while spending cuts may poll well in the abstract, the implementation of these cuts will prove unpopular – and the public is prepared to blame the GOP. The Republicans deserve that blame: Regardless of the provenance of the sequestration scheme, only President Obama has been serious about defusing it. The Republican 'all-cuts' position is not a compromise or even a fleshed-out policy proposal; it’s an intransigent statement of a rejected ideology."

Read the Washington Post,  Republicans have only themselves to blame for the sequester.

UPDATE:  Do Republi-cons even know what they want?

"As I understand it, the GOP has five basic goals in the budget talks:

1) Cut the deficit.

2) Cut entitlement spending.

3) Protect defense spending, and possibly even increase it.

4) Simplify the tax code by cleaning out deductions and loopholes.

5) Lower tax rates.

The White House is willing to cut a deal with Republicans that will accomplish 1, 2, 3 and 4. But Republicans don’t want that deal. They’d prefer the sequester to that deal. That means they will get less on 1, basically nothing 2, 4, and 5, and they will actively hurt themselves on 3. So, rather than accomplishing four of their five goals, they’re accomplishing part of one. Some trade.

I’ve asked some Republicans sources to explain their thinking to me. But none of the answers quite seems to add up."

Read the Washington Post, I don’t understand the Republican position on the sequester

After years of tax cuts and spending increases, will sequestration be the crisis that focuses our attention?

"While there is widespread support for trimming federal spending, when it comes to the specifics of what should be cut, clarity disappears. In not one of the 19 (!) specific areas did a majority of the sample express support for a diminishing of federal spending. (The closest was the 48 percent who favored cutting 'aid to the world’s needy.' So, that happened.) Somewhat amazingly, of the 19 areas Pew asked people about cutting, Americans favored increasing spending over decreasing spending in 16 of them.

What those numbers make clear is that most people live in a fantasy world where overall federal spending decreases even as spending on virtually every federal program increases. Given that 'reality', it’s uniquely possible that only through crisis — manufactured or not — will people come to grips with the fundamental paradox at the center of their thinking of what the federal government should or shouldn’t do."

Read the Washington Post, Why we need the sequester