With unemployment stuck at 7.9 percent, the U.S. economy can ill afford $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts to take effect as scheduled March 1 in the so-called sequestration. Nor can the nation afford the accompanying cuts to defense.
So President Barack Obama’s call Tuesday for an interim deal that would put off sequestration, pending a broader long-term deficit-reduction plan, is welcome — indeed overdue.
Republicans in Congress had all but accepted sequestration, out of their professed desperation for some spending cuts, any spending cuts. Obama cannot responsibly let that happen, especially in the wake of a report showing that defense spending plunged in the last three months of 2012, dragging the economy down a bit with it.
What was missing were specifics: Exactly what would Obama put in the “smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms” that he proposes? He doesn’t want to present a detailed plan before the GOP agrees to deal on his terms. House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, doesn’t want to talk about a short-term deal that includes any new revenue.
Boehner has half a point when he says that the House has already passed budget cuts, in the last Congress, that would replace sequestration without more taxes. Given that sequestration deals only with spending, it does not strike us as unreasonable, in principle, that it be replaced for a few months by a more balanced mix of spending cuts — as long as this really is the prelude to a long-term deal that raises revenue as well.
The Washington Post (Feb. 6)