Personal experience overrides ideological preferences, with 66 percent of Tea Party members who report personal harm from the sequester opposing the cuts. Overall, 56 percent of Americans oppose the cuts and 35 percent support them.
U.S. employers ramped up hiring in February, adding 236,000 jobs and pushing the unemployment rate down to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in January. Stronger hiring shows businesses are confident about the economy, despite higher taxes and government spending cuts.
The government’s February employment report released Friday was filled with mostly encouraging details. The unemployment rate is now at its lowest level in four years. Hiring has averaged more than 200,000 per month since November. Wages increased. And the job gains were broad-based, led by the best construction hiring in six years.
One negative detail: Employers added fewer jobs in January than first estimated. Job gains were lowered to 119,000 from an initially reported 157,000. Still, December hiring was a little better than first thought, with 219,000 jobs added instead of 196,000.
The unemployment rate had been stuck at 7.8 percent or above since September. About half the decline in February occurred because more of the unemployed found jobs. A decline in the number of people looking for work accounted for the other half. People who aren’t looking for jobs aren’t counted as unemployed.
Strong auto sales and a steady housing recovery are spurring more hiring, which could lead to stronger economic growth. The construction industry added 48,000 in February and 151,000 since September. Manufacturing has gained 14,000 last month and 39,000 since November.
So far, higher gas prices and a Jan. 1 increase in Social Security taxes haven’t caused Americans to cut back on big-ticket purchases.
Bill O’Reilly blew up at the usually sedate Alan Colmes on his show last night when Colmes consistently provided specific examples of programs - namely Medicare - President Obama has offered to cut in order to end the sequester. O’Reilly’s response was simply to say they weren’t specific, even though they are specific, and he repeatedly called Colmes a liar, as well as repeating the tired old wingnut meme that Obama is making people suffer on purpose.
He even came close to using a bad word.
Let’s go to the tape:
*This is the headline Media Matters used for the story, even though O’Reilly didn’t actually say that.
Media Matters did, however, post a chart indicating specific programs the President would cut to end the sequester:
NEW YORK (AP) — The Dow is closing at a record, beating the previous high it set in October 2007, before the financial crisis and the Great Recession.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 125.95 points, or 0.9 percent, to close at 14,253.77 Tuesday, beating its previous record by 89 points.
The index is up 8.8 percent this year, capping a remarkable comeback. The Dow has more than doubled since hitting a 12-year low in March 2009.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 14.59 points, or 1 percent, to 1,539.79. The S&P is also within striking distance of its record close of 1,565.
The Nasdaq gained 42.10 points, or 1.3 percent, to 3,224.13.
Three stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was light, 3.3 billion shares.
THAT HORRIBLE OBAMA CAUSED THIS!!!1111!!
Where did the whole idea of sequestration originate? It goes back to 1985. The tax cuts of Ronald’s Reagan early years, combined with his aggressive defense buildup, produced a growing budget deficit that eventually prompted passage of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act. GRH set out a series of ambitious deficit reduction targets, and to put teeth into them it specified that if the targets weren’t met, money would automatically be “sequestered,” or held back, by the Treasury Department from the agencies to which it was originally appropriated. The act was declared unconstitutional in 1986, and a new version was passed in 1987.
Sequestration never really worked, though, and it was repealed in 1990 and replaced by a new budget deal. After that, it disappeared down the Washington, DC, memory hole for the next 20 years.
What about the 2013 version? Where did that come from? In the summer of 2011, Republicans decided to hold the country hostage, insisting that they’d refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless President Obama agreed to substantial deficit reduction. After months of negotiations over a “grand bargain” finally broke down in July, Republicans proposed a plan that would (a) make some cuts immediately and (b) create a bipartisan committee to propose further cuts down the road. But they wanted some kind of automatic trigger in case the committee couldn’t agree on those further cuts, so the White House hauled out sequestration from the dustbin of history as an enforcement mechanism. It would go into effect automatically if no deal was reached.
In the end, no immediate cuts were made, but a “supercommittee” was set up to propose $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction later in the year. To make sure everyone was motivated to make a deal, the sequester was designed to be brutal: a set of immediate, across-the-board cuts to both defense spending and domestic spending, starting on January 1, 2013. The idea was that everyone would hate this so much they’d be sure to agree on a substitute.
Needless to say, no such agreement was reached. So now we’re stuck with the automatic sequestration cuts.
More: The Sequester, Explained
Sequestration is at hand. The infamous provision that Congress enacted as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 so as to get the debt ceiling lifted and to force Democrats and Republicans to negotiate and make concessions failed to do its job, so across the board cuts will begin to be made.
Agencies and Departments will have some latitude on how to implement the reductions. The IRS has reported that it wont furlough its tax processors until after tax season, for instance. Other agencies are already preparing for the cuts. The cuts will not come all at once, but will have a cumulative effect of $85 billion in the current fiscal year. Furloughs wont happen right away either. That will start within the next 30-60 days.
Small businesses that have contracts with federal, state, and local agencies will be hit sooner than larger businesses because they don’t have the financial means to endure prolonged holds on business. It’s also likely to increase the unemployment rates that have struggled to come down since the recession (and despite the fact that Wall Street has surged in recent years to its pre recession highs and profits are booming).
But all eyes fall on Congress on what the next step is. Both sides have been posturing for weeks about the ramifications of the cuts and who is to blame even though it was the failure of Republicans to budge from a no-tax pledge that forced the issue.
The President is meeting with Congressional leaders today, but no deal or breakthrough is expected.
Democrats and Republicans are in a standoff over how to replace the cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over nine years, $85 billion of which would occur in the remaining seven months of this fiscal year. Republicans reject Democrats’ call for higher taxes on top earners to replace part of the spending reductions.
“Middle-class families can’t keep paying the price for dysfunction in Washington,” Obama said in a statement yesterday. The president has until 11:59 p.m. to issue the order officially putting the cuts into effect.
“How much more money do we want to steal from the American people to fund more government?” Boehner said at a news conference in Washington yesterday. “I’m for no more.”
The White House meeting follows the Senate’s rejection yesterday of a pair of partisan proposals to replace the spending reductions. No additional congressional action is planned before the start of the cuts, to be split between defense and non-defense spending.
Yesterday, a Senate GOP proposal failed to make the cut (losing 38-62); it would have ceded appropriations control that is constitutionally provided to Congress to the President. In other words, that plan would have blunted effects of the sequester to make it more palatable, not correcting the deficiencies in the sequester’s overreaching and unyielding impact.
The Democrat plan (S. 388), which failed by a 51-49 vote (60 required to pass), would have replaced some of the defense cuts with a tax hike on top earners. That plan had the President’s support.
But the rest of Congress has skipped town knowing that nothing is getting done this weekend.
Republicans have been simultaneously blaming the President for the sequester and claiming that the cuts wont be nearly as bad as Democrats claim (but that some cuts are too bad to be made - as in the Defense budget). Majority Leader Eric Cantor has repeatedly made the bogus claim that Republicans have had a sequester alternative for months but Democrats have failed to act. I have previously fisked that approach, but the fact is that the GOP doesn’t have a sequester alternative in hand in the 113th Congress and that the prior GOP plan would have eliminated funding for Obamacare programs to offset cuts.
Democrats have all but warned that the sky will fall and that the cuts will have dire consequences and blamed Republicans for the failure to produce a balanced plan to replace the sequester with a combination of tax changes and spending cuts.
The danger for Democrats is that the budget cuts wont have the dire impact that they claim it would have and that most Americans will get the level of services they are used to and that will inure a benefit to the GOP longstanding argument that government is simply too big and that serious cuts need to be made.
Both sides of the aisle in Congress have known that they couldn’t have made cuts in the levels and scope of those that are part of the sequester. It gives them a chance to hack away at the discretionary budget in a way that hasn’t been done before. In other words, there are some on Capitol Hill who are welcoming the sequester and embrace its outcome.
One dirty little secret about sequester: cap hill veterans of BOTH parties admit they’d never be able to cut this much if left on their own
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) February 28, 2013
So, we get to a pivot point. If the cuts truly are as bad as the President warns and the American people see the impact of these cuts, it will put additional pressure on the Republicans to acquiesce on their stubborn refusal to balance cuts with tax hikes or eliminating loopholes in the tax code. The Republican effort to blame the President for the cuts has largely failed according to the polls, and that dynamic hasn’t changed - and likely wont change.
However, if the cuts aren’t as bad as the President has warned, that might give Republicans a renewed effort to push for still more cuts - arguing that there is much more to cut and that the fat needs to be trimmed from the non-discretionary budget as well. Republicans might lose the argument on who would take credit for the cuts (seeing how they currently blame the President for the sequester in the first place - #Obamaquester). Yet, these same Republicans would have no problem using the cuts to their advantage in demanding more. They’ll crow to their supporters that they held the line on cuts and did what they set out to do without compromising on their no tax pledge to Grover Norquist.
Folks like Larry Kudlow are carrying the Republican argument, claiming that the cuts are pro-growth by claiming that the cuts are only blunting a rise in the annual budget (which can be dismissed by looking at the fact that the annual budget as a percentage of GDP has shrunk during the president’s first term in office and is projected to further decline against GDP and that the total spending is still expected to increase due to entitlements not governed by the sequester).
The experts who study these things do expect that the cuts will have a significant effect on the economy by reducing the expected growth over the next year, including the IMF. Sequester cuts will slow not only domestic growth from 2% to 1.5% for 2013, but global economic growth. After all, the sequester is austerity by another name. And, we’ve already seen how austerity has slammed the economies of places like Spain, Ireland, and Greece where austerity was imposed to bring debt levels down.
With no deal in place in Congress, $85 billion in sweeping federal spending cuts will take effect Friday, targeting everything, from defense to education.
There is little hope of a last-minute deal to stave off the automatic cuts after the Senate failed to strike a deal and a large number of the members of the House left Washington on Thursday for the weekend.
The pending budget cuts are the result of impasse along primarily party lines, whose origins stem from an August 2011 deal to increase the debt ceiling.
Expectations are low that a meeting Friday morning between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders will yield a solution.
The impact of forced budget cuts Budget cuts ignites political circus Budget cuts: Warnings or scare tactics? Small thinking about BIG problems
Most observers believe both sides will use the meeting at the White house to underline their positions heading into the next round of the budget wars — a possible government shutdown on March 27, when current federal funding authority expires.
In Washington, where domestic policy is one conversation, foreign policy is another, and the Israel debate is a realm all its own, discussions of the sequester battle and the Hagel confirmation battle are usually separated by a commercial break. But when looked at together, the similarities are striking.
[…]Ronald Wilson Reagain
And on Israel, Reagan said and did things that would turn Ted Cruz’s hair white. Reagan didn’t merely sell AWACS surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia over Israeli objections. When AIPAC launched a lobbying campaign to stop the sale, Reagan declared, “It is not the business of other nations to make American foreign policy.” When Israel bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, Reagan backed a U.N. resolution condemning the Jewish state and delayed various arms sales. And in August 1982, after Israel bombed Beirut for 11 straight hours, Reagan called Israel’s prime minister, a man whose family had largely perished at Nazi hands, and said, “Menachem, this is a Holocaust.”
The point isn’t that Reagan’s statements and actions were laudable. It’s that once upon a time, Republicans tolerated a level of criticism of Israeli policy that is unthinkable today. As on taxes, the bar for what’s considered “pro-Israel” in today’s GOP has been so dramatically raised that even the staunchest right-wingers are in danger of failing to qualify. On Hagel, right-wing activists didn’t merely demand that Republican senators vote no. They demanded that they support a filibuster, something never before done in a fight over a secretary of defense nominee.
“‘Menachem, this is a holocaust’ Reagan said.
‘Mr. President, I think I know what a holocaust is’ Begin replied, in a voice that Kemp would recall as ‘dripping with sarcasm.’ According to [Deputy Chief-Of-Staff Michael] Deaver, Reagan continued ‘in the plainest of language’ to tell Begin what he thought about the bombing of Beirut, concluding by saying, ‘It has gone too far. You must stop it’
Twenty-minutes later Begin called back and said he had issued the order to [General Ariel] Sharon to stop the bombings. After he had hung up the phone Reagan said to Deaver, ‘I didn’t know I had that kind of power.’”
So in case you missed it, the wingnutosphere was outrageously outraged over Bob Woodward saying on CNN last night that he had received an email from the White House telling him he would “regret” questioning the White House version over how the sequester came to be.
Of course the wingnutosphere went straight into overdrive - Sean Hannity called it an example of “intimidation” by a “demagogue president”:
But, the emails actually turned out to be quite cordial, as published in Politico:
But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand barain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding — from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations. There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios — but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)
Man, I bet Woodward is sleeping with a light on now.
In all seriousness, what’s strange about this story is that Woodward himself got the ball rolling, as Media Matters details here.
Talking Points Memo has a detailed timeline of the “dust up” here.
In the context of the US Congress, sequester is defined as an act of lewd acrobats involving a senator, a underage prostitute, a tube of KY-Jelly, and a squid.
OK, you got me, I might have just made up that last bit.
So, to prevent sequestration from becoming a way for politicians to carry out personal vendettas against various political targets (both by the left and the right), the money is supposed to be withheld from every government agency equally. That is, every government agency, program, and project gets the same percentage of its projected budget withheld to produce an “across the board” total spending cut in order to make the federal budget for that year meet the limits set by congress in the Budget Resolution.
In other words, if you force the government into sequestration in order to stick it to the other guys, you automatically screw yourself too.
There is very little flexibility in sequestration because the process isn’t supposed to be used.
Sequestration is supposed to be the nuclear option, the option with such catastrophic consequences that anything else is preferable – including sitting down at the table with your political opposition and doing your goddamned job.
Using Sequestration to cut government spending is exactly like slamming into a wall and depending on your car’s airbag so that you don’t have to fix the brakes.
It’s stupid and dangerous and as I’ve said, exactly like cutting off your own nose.
Go read the whole thing; a genuinely clear, angry, and (yet) amusing look at this clusterfk.