Yesterday I laid out my case for why Republicans should pick themselves up off the mat and adopt a hard line on $1.2 trillion in "sequestration" cuts that are scheduled to take effect on March 1. Charles Krauthammer agrees, for many of the same reasons:
Are Republicans listening? It appears so. House Republican Deputy Whip Peter Roskam firmly rejected the president's latest gambit on Larry Kudlow's CNBC show last night, hitting several important notes during the segment:
Under the president’s logic, there’s no amount, there’s no limit to which you can’t spend if all this spending is good. And of course, it’s an absurdity. What it means is we march into a debt crisis. This White House has an intention to take us to $26 trillion in debt that has an adverse impact on the businesses in my district in suburban Chicago. It will have an impact on interest rates over the long run, has an impact on small families and the ability to get car loans and all these other things. So we’ve got to have our heads in the game, hold this president’s feet to the fire as it relates to spending and make sure that he’s following through on the spending discipline that he celebrates...The sequester is the president’s sequester. Its current law. And if the president has any ideas about how to change it, we would love to work with the White House. But I’m telling you what’s not going to happen: taxes are not going to go up under House Republicans and we’re going to make sure we are living without our means.
The GOP brass isn't just talking a decent game for the cameras. Politico reports that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell exhorted his colleagues to take a robust stand for spending restraint during a closed-door meeting this week. McConnell's sedate temperament doesn't typically cast him as a fighter, but his message is spot on:
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Senate Republican in a private meeting on Tuesday that spending cuts the GOP seeks are going to require a fight. “Nobody said cutting spending would be easy, we need to fight,” McConnell told Republicans on Tuesday, according to a source with knowledge of the statement. The rallying cry from McConnell came on the same day President Barack Obama laid out his plan to delay the sequester, which would involve new tax revenue coupled with spending cuts. The Republican leader is urging fellow Republicans to put up more of a fight on upcoming spending battles, including on sequestration.
The president got his useless, symbolic tax hike on "millionaires and billionaires" in the fiscal cliff agreement. If Republicans can't come together and rally around the flag of aggressively (but smartly) protecting taxpayers from out-of-control spending and growing debt, they might as well just dissolve the party. But effective fighting is different from disorganized bravado. The GOP can't thwart the president on every single issue, every single time. They need to pick their spots wisely and explain their opposition effectively. As established above, sequestration presents a solid opportunity for them to advance the ball. Some hawkish Republicans will accurately object that the sequester will pack a real punch on our defense budget and should be avoided, if possible. Democrats will squeal about the "draconian cuts" that this White House conceptualized and Obama signed into law. How disastrous would these automatic cuts really be? Not very, argues economist Veronique de Rugy:
It is no secret that I think that Congress and the president should allow the sequestration cuts to go through. First, independently of the debt deal, after years of fast growth the Pentagon’s budget should be on the table for review and potential cuts like everything else (even if it is not the main driver of our future debt). Second, these spending reductions won’t be anywhere as deep as many claim they will. The CBO projections (see Table 1.3 here, or Table 1.5 in the new CBO projections) about the impact of sequestration show that in the worst-case scenario (if all the cuts are applied to the baseline in the law), there will be initial reductions between FY 2012 and FY 2013, but that defense spending will continue to grow in nominal terms for all years after. After sequestration, the FY 2013 defense budget will be comparable to its FY 2006 level (in real terms). Adjusted for inflation, over the next ten years, the spending is projected to remain relatively constant.
I'll leave you with this chart via Dan Mitchell, which puts the lie to much of the anti-sequestration hysteria. Draconian: