I won't waste space in this blog discussing the harmful effects of the sequester. If the recent FAA debacle doesn't give you an idea of how bad this is, or how bad it will get, nothing will.
Instead, I want to highlight just how crazy the Republican position is on this issue.
For the past four years, the party has made it its mission to obstruct President Obama's agenda, and to whittle away at the power of the federal government so that the country can safely be run by special interests without the pesky intervention of the law. On the economy, the GOP has tried everything they can to drain the public sector of much-needed tax revenues and to channel even more money into the hands of their wealthy donors. After all, who needs public roads, subways, housing, hospitals, schools, and the police department when the rich can buy all those services privately?
But even knowing the Republican mindset, the party's stance on the sequester has left me scratching my head. Granted, the Democrats are as much to blame for the sequester as their opponents, and the political calculation behind it has clearly backfired since our Congress is so dysfunctional that it cannot reach a deal even when confronted with a crisis. But whether you look backwards or forwards, it is the Republican obsession with austerity that led to this, and which is continuing to make it impossible to find a solution.
While the Republicans say they would cooperate with Democrats to repeal the sequester, what they want in return makes the whole exercise pointless. More precisely, they are willing to stop the spending cuts triggered by the sequester only if the Democrats agree to even bigger spending cuts and for even more public services!
Another way of parsing this is that the GOP is offering us ten dollars in exchange for a hundred.
Have these guys gone over the edge? Sorry, that might be painfully obvious but I am making a distinction here between the Republicans just being obstructionist and Machiavellian (which is their natural state until recently) to becoming outright rubber-room loonies. When someone has the temerity and poor judgment to offer the type of deal that they are offering, and then get angry that people are not dumb enough to accept it, you have to ask yourself if you are dealing with someone who is not really playing with a full deck.
I fear for our country. It's bad enough that we have a political party that is devoted to promoting special interests and to turning a blind eye to gross inequality and exploitation, but it's incredibly frightening when the party in question is no longer functioning from even a politically rational place. There is a fine line between being crazy like a fox and being just plain crazy, and the Republicans have now crossed it.
The sequester is going to be painful but the pain that we will suffer from the type of severe spending cuts that Republicans want will be much worse, and the long-term damage to our economy extreme. Europe has experimented with austerity and is still reeling from the disastrous consequences of that decision. As President Obama reaches out to the GOP to resolve this, I hope he remembers that, and doesn't give away our future just for the sake of bipartisanship.
A cure that is worse than the disease is no cure at all.
SANJAY SANGHOEE has worked at leading investment banks as well as at a multi-billion dollar hedge fund. He has an MBA from Columbia Business School and is the author of the financial thriller "Merger" (available below) which Chicago Tribune called "Timely, Gripping, and Original". Please follow him on Twitter and Facebook (Candid Politics & Business Blogs).