The Conversation

Sequester Will Force Obama's Hand on Entitlements Says...The White House

President Obama has been giving the sequester plenty of negative attention recently. Two weeks ago he made a statement about the sequester in which he called it a "self-inflicted wound" to the economy. Ten days ago he focused on it during his Weekly Address saying the cuts would make Americans "suffer." Then last week, in his State of the Union speech, the President called it "a really bad idea."

If you didn't know better you'd think all of this was a shock to the President. In fact, when the Debt Limit Deal was reached in 2011 the White House made clear that sequester was bad news by design. The White House Fact Sheet announcing the debt limit deal called sequester as "A Strong Enforcement Mechanism to Make All Sides Come Together."

If the fiscal committee took no action, the deal would automatically add nearly $500 billion in defense cuts on top of cuts already made, and, at the same time, it would cut critical programs like infrastructure or education.  That outcome would be unacceptable to many Republicans and Democrats alikecreating pressure for a bipartisan agreement without requiring the threat of a default with unthinkable consequences for our economy. 

Sequester was always intended to apply pressure to both parties. That was the whole point. The goal--according to the same White House Fact Sheet--was to force a deal that included "entitlement and tax reform." So where are we on that right now?

The GOP compromised on new taxes in December, but we've had nothing on entitlements from the President. In fact, immediately after the GOP gave in on taxes, Obama began demanding more "tax reform" in order to avoid the entitlement cuts that were his half of the bargain. From the SOTU last week, "we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful."

Put aside the straw man about seniors shouldering "the entire burden." The bottom line is simple: Republicans did what they agreed to do to avoid sequester, but the President has tried to weasel his way out of his end of the bargain. If the President is feeling the pressure now, sequester is working as intended.


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