The March 1 sequester budget cuts are yet another product of crises manufactured by the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party. These Tea Party extremists have one objective: crush the federal government. Motivated by a strange brew of Old Testament Christianity and Ayn Rand's "objectivism," they're a lethal force within the GOP -- anarchists.
In August of 2011, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives forced a phony debt-ceiling crisis. In order to raise the ceiling, and to push the matter off the political calendar until after the elections, President Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011, which said that if Congress failed to approve a ten-year budget reduction of $1.2 trillion, automatic cuts would kick in. The initial cuts, $85 billion, apply to "discretionary" spending and are divided between reductions to defense ($43 billion), domestic ($30 billion), and mandatory spending ($12 billion) such as cuts to Medicare providers -- Social Security and Medicaid are protected.
Who's to blame? The White House originated the notion of sequestration. Nonetheless, the president had the proverbial "gun held to his head." There was a dire threat of budget default because House Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless there were humongous budget cuts. (At the time, the GOP-run House voted on Obama's request for a "clean" debt-limit increase and all 236 Republicans voted no.) The president signed the Budget Control Act to avoid having the U.S. to go into default and because he was facing reelection and wanted the economy to be as healthy as possible.
Who will the public blame? This appears to be a big political win for the president. On a recent PBS NewsHour, conservative commentator David Brooks observed,
I personally think the likely loser in this is the Republicans... And they have basically got a problem. I think they need to show the American people that we like some government programs. We don't like others... Unfortunately, when they embrace [the Sequester], they are embracing a piece of legislation that makes no distinction between good government and bad government. It just cuts randomly across the board.
Where will Americans notice the sequester cuts? The New York Times detailed the impacts including furloughs of border agents, air-traffic controllers, food-safety employees, and civilian military employees, among others. In California, the other cuts will impact teachers, teacher aides, and the disadvantaged.
How will it impact the economy? On February 26, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned Congress that the sequester cuts will create a "significant headwind" for the tepid recovery. Some experts feel sequester will cost one million jobs over two years.
Does the public understand what's happening? No. A recent Bloomberg poll indicated public perception of the deficit "crisis" is out of touch with reality. During the Obama presidency, the budget deficit has grown smaller, but only 6 percent of Americans recognize this. Republican aAnarchists have done a good job "brainwashing" Americans about the deficit, preparing them for austerity economics.
What does the public want to cut? A recent Pew poll indicated 72 percent of respondents want Washington to reduce the budget deficit. Nonetheless, there was no consensus on what federal programs to cut: only 24 percent wanted to cut military spending and 11 percent wanted to cut education. Republican anarchist brainwashing has produced a national neurosis: Americans like government programs but don't want to pay for them.
What will be the long-term impact? Sequester will leave everyone unhappy and set the stage for the next crisis, at the end of March, when federal funding for the fiscal year expires.
What should President Obama do? The Republican Party has been taken over by anarchists, Tea Party extremists who do not believe in government. As University of California linguistics professor George Lakoff observed, "They believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them." Republican anarchists reject the founders' morality, the sentiments that produced the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. These ultra conservatives don't believe in the common good or the notion that Americans have a moral responsibility to care for each other. The Republican anarchist motto is, "I'm for me, first." (Ayn Rand's objectivism and glorified self-interest.)
President Obama must recognized that the anarchists have pushed the United States into a political civil war. The president cannot negotiate with House Republicans so long as they are beholden to the ultra-conservative wing of the party. Obama cannot negotiate with a fiscal gun held to his head.
The president has to hold firm, even if that means shutting down government for a spell. Perhaps then the mainstream Republican Party will expel the radicals and proclaim they are not against government, in general. Perhaps if the government is shut down, and the economy goes into a tailspin, Americans will wake up to threat posed by Republican anarchists.