Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Sequester Maneuver

What is "The Sequester?" Read here:
The sequester is a group of cuts to federal spending set to take effect March 1, barring further congressional action.
The Sequester: It's Kinda Pretty!
If you look around it's several billion dollars of spending cuts that come down on us if we can't otherwise get our act together on the budget. It's the "stick" that was written into law last year as sort of a Mutually Assured Destruction suicide-pact to force budgetary reason.

Newsflash: Our act, we cannot get it together.

What's Interesting About The Sequester?
What's interesting about the sequester is that it's another unforced tactical error on the part of the Republicans: if it happens--and, hey, it might--it does cut spending. Painfully even--and the Republicans are going to take the blame for it. Even though it was Obama's idea. From Pew:

Town Hall opines:
This is a great gig, if you can get it. You conceive of a bad idea, demand that it be given the force of law, sign it into existence, and adamantly oppose efforts to alter or undo it -- then when it no longer serves your fleeting political purposes, you drop the whole thing in the lap of your adversaries, and most people buy it.
Republicans (rightly?) feel this whole thing is unfair. What are they gonna do about it?

What ARE They Gonna Do About It?
The Republicans are, apparently, going to take the tactical position of getting their asses kicked. Here's what's going on:

Problem 1: The Republicans DO Own It
If you ask the 'man on the street' which party it is what wants to CUT SPENDING what would they say? Oh, they'd say "Obama--HE'S the guy always on about cutting spending!" Right? Right? What!? No--they'd say Republicans want to cut spending--because they do. That's their whole brand. So part one of this is that regardless of whoever made it up--or opposed backing out--or anything? The brand? It's pure elephant.

GOP Response: Deploy and launch the devastating #Obamasequester hashtag to ensure that EVERYONE knows it was Barry's idea. Yes: that really is their plan. Yes, it's as stupid and (in)effective as it sounds.

Problem 2: No Message Discipline
The current GOP state is a hurricane of bad messaging and unforced errors. The sequester is no exception. House Speaker John Boehner responded to Obama's assertions that the sequester would destroy the country with ... total agreement.
Yesterday Obama did his traditional dog and pony show when he wants to show he's serious about something without actually doing something about it. The most recent human props were first responders that Obama claims will be laid off if the mean GOP doesn't cave in and raise taxes.

Today John Boehner responds with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that agrees with Obama.
 A second piece of analysis:
Could the GOP message on the sequester be any more self-defeating? Boehner could argue that the sequester cuts are necessary as a first — and somewhat modest — step toward controlling the deficits that threaten the economy. Instead, he describes them as a threat to national security and jobs that he nevertheless supports. It’s not an argument that is likely to persuade millions of Americans.
GOP Response: The GOP response will continue to be muddled. This is because when you boil down their position it's this: It is okay to cut entitlements (especially to the poor) but not to cut money to the military. Whatever the truth of this is, it is undermined because (a) they are not saying that plainly and (b) most Americans don't feel our national security is fragile. Boehner could cry that Obama is "holding the military hostage"--which is more or less true--but even the optics on that are bad. Boehner agreed to this and the military isn't exactly a 'wimpy kid' (and the troops will still get paid--although some benefits will be cut).

Problem 3: It's Gonna Hurt (Our Popularity)
The fear is that this time there will be damage--especially in the defense industry and with jobs. If the GOP gets stuck holding the ball on this it could hurt their 2014 campaign. That's bad. So they need to find someway to offload the blame for the pain to Obama

GOP Response: Give Obama total power over where to cut!
GOP problem: Obama keeps complaining that the sequester is a blunt instrument that’ll impose all sorts of hardships because it cuts spending indiscriminately, across the board. What we need are more targeted cuts aimed at agencies that are better prepared to cope with them. GOP solution: Let Obama and his agency chiefs pick the targets then. When people start complaining that they’ve been furloughed or that they have to wait in line at the airport for 11 hours or whatever, they can thank the Lightbringer for slashing their budget.
This will look just brilliant when Obama cuts stuff that hurts Red-State voters: they all blame Obama anyway.
Seriously, Obama, What The Heck!?
What Do I Think?
I'm not sure what Obama expected to happen--but I suspect it was not the sequester. If this goes the way it looks like it might, Obama will (again) get credit for 11-dimensional chess when, really, it's just another own-goal by the GOP's worst enemy: themselves.

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