For the avoidance of doubt, I oppose the sequester, and I oppose budget cuts at this time in our economic recovery. I am a "wet" who believes -- with good empirical evidence to support it -- that we should be increasing public investment to jump-start the economy to a higher level of growth and jobs.
One cannot help but observe, however, that the sequester is a political minefield for Republicans. Right now, the Republicans have some bargaining clout with the president who hopes to avoid the problem entirely.
Once the sequester begins, however, the entire picture changes. The president has the bully pulpit, Organizing for America, and the agreement and affections of the American people.
Most importantly, however, the sequester will morph from a weird word that barely penetrates the American psyche into real hardship and discomfort for millions of Americans plus job losses for a million more.
And, it will all be on TV. Every day. Every evening.
Indeed, anything bad that happens, whether actually related or not, will be blamed by the American people on the sequester. It will be up to the "drys" to rebut that presumption, a major uphill battle exacerbated by their inability to decide whether to "blame" President Obama or embrace the budget cuts.
The utter political disaster this spells for the Republicans cannot be exaggerated. As jobs disappear, their so-called "philosophy" that government spending somehow inhibits job growth will be destroyed in front of everyone's eyes. Although one expects them to continue to babble such nonsense, it will never again connect with the American people.
Perhaps even more devastating, the lack or inadequacy of services provided by the government will awaken people to how much a part of their well-being government is. It is not more than a half step from that emotional awareness to the rational conclusion that those services need to be paid for -- aka taxes.
President Obama will be in an increasingly powerful bargaining position every day the sequester continues as the hardship and difficulties it causes accumulate, and the American people realize that it is totally unnecessary.
The president should use the occasion to end all these manufactured crises: the debt-ceiling should be increased (perhaps employing the McConnell rule) for the remainder of the president's term; a budget for fiscal 2014 should be agreed; and Richard Cordray, the nominee for director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau -- that has already returned hundreds of millions to consumers -- should be brought to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote.
The president should also include the Buffet Rule, the American Jobs Act, closing of loopholes for overseas tax havens, ending taxpayer subsidies to the oil companies, and a financial activities tax ("FAT") of 0.5 percent, in the deal.
If we need to go through this mess, we might as well get it all settled.
Republicans have a face-saving way out. They can claim that they could not allow the defense cuts to occur because of national security concerns, they can feign disbelief that president Obama would risk that and accuse him of being a big taxer-and-spender. They can play the 2014 campaign in their familiar sandbox. They are good at playing and feigning.
Republicans know that the president has one vulnerability. He does not play politics with peoples' lives. Hence, their big chance to cut a less unfavorable deal for themselves is prior to March 1.
After that, if they hand him a royal flush, they should expect him to play his hand.