President Obama has a way to delay the across-the-board $85 billion sequestration scheduled for March 1. His not-so-surprising proposal is to raise taxes so he can spend more. Fortunately, the GOP is not going along with this tired, old plan.
Mr. Obama insists it’s up to Republicans to give in to the higher taxes to prevent the sequestration that disproportionately hits defense.
“They recognize that the sequester is a bad idea, but what they’ve suggested is that the only way to replace it now is for us to cut Social Security, cut Medicare, and not close a single loophole, not raise any additional revenue from the wealthiest Americans or corporations who have a lot of lawyers and accountants who are able to maneuver and manage and work and game the system,” the president explained while speaking Thursday to House Democrats at their retreat in Leesburg, Va.
Thanks to the New Year’s Day “fiscal cliff” deal, Mr. Obama is already getting $620 billion in tax hikes. That half of his “balanced” approach is finished, and now it’s time to deliver on the spending cuts side.
As House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Wednesday, “The American people do not believe the president will use further tax revenues to lower the debt. After having seen this president attempt to spend his way into prosperity over the last four years, they know he’ll spend it.” The House has twice passed smart alternatives in spending cuts, but the Democratic Senate has not taken up the legislation.
Sequestration serves an important purpose. In the summer of 2011, Mr. Obama and Congress made a deal to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for deficit reduction that came from reducing the rate of projected increase in spending over 10 years in the forms of budget caps.
“The original Budget Control Act was about deficit reduction, but the sequester part was only a reduction in spending — it had nothing to do with taxes,” said Patrick Louis Knudsen, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “For that reason, if you’re going to replace it with something else, it should be alternative spending reductions.”
The second chunk of $1.2 trillion of spending cuts was supposed to be negotiated by a bipartisan supercommittee. The White House arranged it so the automatic spending cuts would hit defense extra hard if the supercommittee failed. It was designed from the beginning to force the GOP to cave.
“The president keeps saying that the spending cuts in sequestration would be tough on the fragile economy, but he doesn’t seem to have a problem taking money out of the economy by taxes,” explained Mr. Knudsen. “Keynesians always do that — they fight against taking money out of the private sector with spending cuts, but have no problem doing it by raising taxes.”
It’s obvious Mr. Obama’s intention is to achieve a major political victory and help drive House Republicans out of the majority in the 2014 elections. As he told Democrats at their meeting Thursday, “A byproduct of doing that good work and keeping that focus, I would expect that Nancy Pelosi is going to be speaker again pretty soon.”
To keep that from happening, Republicans need to up their game when it comes to explaining to voters how it’s not possible to tax our way out of $16.5 trillion in debt. The government’s been living beyond our means for far too long, and the spending spree needs to stop.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.