Barring a miracle of bipartisan cooperation over the next 12 hours, the sequester — a series of across-the-board spending cuts — will kick in tonight.
Part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, the sequester will likely shave 700,000 jobs and 0.6 percent worth of growth off the economy. Its cuts were designed to be so crude and damaging they would incentivize all sides to replace it with more well-thought out deficit reduction.
But thanks to the GOP’s single-minded fixation on spending cuts over tax increases, that effort failed. Republicans spent the last two years treating every debate over the deficit as if it were occurring in a historical vacuum, accusing Obama of failing his own commitment to balance, repeatedly scoffing at new tax revenue, and insisting that “it’s finally time” to “get serious” about cutting spending, even as trillions of dollars in cuts mounted.
In short, the GOP has repeatedly thrown the spending cuts from each previous deal down the memory hole, demanding more and more while claiming that Obama and Democrats have unreasonably wanted to balance those cuts with new revenue. ThinkProgress has the video report. Watch it:
Between the spring 2011 budget fight, the debt ceiling debacle, and the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the United States has cut almost $1.5 trillion in spending over the next decade, plus saving roughly $200 billion more in lower interest payments.
In fact, at the Wall Street Journal breakfast featured in the video, reporter Lori Montgomerybrought up all these previous cuts point blank with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Ryan’s rejoinder encapsulated the entire bizarre kabuki dance: “That was last session. We’re going forward now.” Montgomery and the other reporters literally busted out laughing in response. (Ryan’s logic doesn’t even work on its on terms. The new tax revenues in the fiscal cliff deal were part of the last congressional session as well, but he wants to count those.)
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the budget ledger, the country will raise only $630 billion in new tax revenue over the next decade. That’s the context in which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) insists “the tax issue is finished,” even as both he and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) claim to be seeking a “balanced” agreement. As a result, everything from Medicare, to the military, food safety, air traffic control, nutritional support for women and infants, disaster relief, law enforcement, and health research looks likely to get the axe.