[I]t’s looking more and more like progressives and liberals are going to be facing a tough question: Which is worse, indefinite sequestration or a grand bargain that includes serious entitlement cuts? Seems to me that sooner or later, major players on the left are going to have to stake out a position on this question....It was always far-fetched to think that the sequester would force Republicans to accept tax increases. Sure, some squirmed at the thought of cutting defense, but indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts to government -- isn't that pretty much a right-wing wet dream?
...one thing that appears very unlikely is the preferred progressive endgame: As the sequester grows increasingly unpopular, Obama and Dems rally public opinion to force Republicans to replace it with a deal that combines new revenues with judicious spending cuts that don’t hit entitlement benefits. I’m just not seeing any way this happens.
That means that at some point, liberals may well be faced with a choice — should they accept the grand bargain that includes Chained CPI and Medicare cuts, and join the push for that, or essentially declare the sequester a less awful alternative, and instead insist that we live with that?
Indeed, says Rick Perlstein.
So: the “sequester.” That too-clever-by-half notion, born of last year’s debt ceiling negotiations out of the White House’s presumption that, when faced with the horror of heedless, profligate, across-the-board budget cuts to all manner of popular government programs, the Republicans’ “fever would break”—remember that?—and the Loyal Opposition would somehow come to agree to a reasonable, “balanced” deficit reduction package. It all seemed so cut and dried in those palmy days, just a few months ago: who could possibly imagine a major American political party could possibly let such madness actually go into effect?So here we are. Republicans are fine with the sequester cuts, especially because there's no sign it's costing them politically.
Um, me? I wonder how many folks within the White House, gaming out whether Republicans might not just call the bluff, bothered to consider the fact that an embrace of heedless, profligate, across-the-board budget cuts to all manner of popular government programs is a key component of hardcore conservative ideology. That, when Barry Goldwater proclaimed in his 1960 manifesto Conscience of a Conservative, “I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size …. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them …. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ ‘interests,’ I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty,” that Barry Goldwater—and the future millions for whom his sentiments became an ideological touchstone—meant what he said.
In December, just after he won a second term, Obama held an 18-percentage-point advantage over congressional Republicans on the question of whom the public trusted more to deal with the economy. Now, it’s a far more even split — 44 percent to 40 percent, with a slight edge for the president — but the share of those saying they have confidence in “neither” has ticked up into double digits.The GOP, in any case, is mostly immune to negative public opinion. They see a chance to sever the link between voters and the Democratic Party by degrading government. Absent a massive and unlikely surge in public anger that exclusively targets Republicans, they'ill be content to try to make the sequester spending levels the new normal while they push a Grand Bargain that makes Simpson-Bowles look like liberal nirvana.
Meanwhile, Democrats, being Democrats, hate the sequester cuts, and with good reason. But some Democrats, including those in the White House, would much prefer a Grand Bargain to the sequester cuts; indeed they've been pursuing a Grand Bargain. And sooner or later, probably sooner, they will insist that liberals get behind cuts to social insurance programs.
So the sequester, which was designed to get both parties to support a Grand Bargain, will succeed only in forcing the Democrats to support it, and so the resulting deal, if there's deal, will be completely on the GOP's terms, because, as I said, Republicans are fine with the sequester. How the fuck did we get here?
In Greg Sargent's piece, Bernie Sanders and other liberals says it's too early to talk about a Sophie's choice. But what's going to change between now and a few months from now? Liberals in Congress will be "asked" to get behind a major assault on the New Deal.
And those who refuse, you just wait, will be accused of supporting austerity.
UPDATE: And to answer the obvious question, no, I don't have any bright ideas about what to do. Liberals are in a bind; first step is to acknowledge it.