The Sequester: Obama or Congressional Republicans to Blame?
The answer to that question is a bit complicated. But, first, I'll explain what the Sequester is for those who don't know. Don't worry, I won't bore you with the details. Actually, I probably will anyway.
In essence, the sequester is scheduled set of mandatory budget cuts, about half of which would come from defense. The other half is made up of a mixture of discretionary and entitlement cuts. It was set up during the Debt Ceiling negotiation of 2011. The goal was to motivate lawmakers into striking a compromise and cutting the budget by 1.2 trillion over 10 years. They had around 18 months to replace the scheduled cuts with alternatives, but have been completely unable to thus far and it looks like they won't before the March 1st deadline.
So, that's what the Sequester is. But, who is to blame for this?
The Blame Game
There are many people to blame, depending on how you look at it. But, here's a short list at why.
1. President Obama and the Obama administration
This one is obvious. In the Debt Ceiling negotiations, the Sequester originated from Obama and his staff. So, from that angle, he's certainly liable. I assume they saw it as an opportunity to pressure congress into action. It seems that they overestimated the efficiency of congress. It's also good to note that congressional Republicans agreed to such a plan.
2. Congressional Republicans
In recent polling, over 40% of Americans would blame the GOP for the sequester cuts happening. Only around 20% would blame Obama, so he certainly has the advantage. But, why would they be to blame if Obama came up with it? Well, they are being seen as obstructionists. It's true that House Republicans passed a plan to replace the cuts, but they also knew it would have no chance in the Senate of passing. It was essentially passed, so they could say they passed something. Same thing happened with the two Ryan budgets, which had no chance in hell of passing in the Senate because of the deep entitlement cuts that most Americans are against.
Now, compromise generally works this way: someone proposes a plan, and then someone else comes back with a counteroffer. So, should the Democrats have come back with a counteroffer? Well, here's why not. Congressional Republicans have made it abundantly clear that they will accept no new revenues as part of a deal to replace the Sequester cuts. Mainly, this message is coming from the leadership. Some Republicans (mainly GOP Governors worried about its effect in their state) have been open to the idea. Sadly, they are not in Congress. So, when the two parties are so far apart, it's hard to really strike a compromise at all because one side won't even participate. This is why they are currently set to be blamed for it.
3. Congress in general
The fact that they had 18 months to find alternative cuts and still couldn't do it just speaks to the complete ineptitude of Congress. It's my personal belief that Republicans are largely to blame for this dysfunction. Democrats have been open to compromises to entitlements. Honestly, I should say Obama was and is open to it. Some Democratic Senators and Representatives are very against it. So, Obama is a bit more open to it, since he proposed tying Social Security to the CPI index, thereby shaving off a small percent to beneficiary payments. Not at all popular with Congressional Democrats. But, when push comes to shove, House Minority Leader Pelosi and Senate Majority leader Reid could probably get their members to vote for it. Speaker Boehner can't control his Tea Party members because they have allegiance to no one and are certainly more conservative than even the leadership.
Enough blame to go around
So, there's enough blame to go around. Obama is to blame for coming up with it. Congressional Republicans are to blame for being obstructionists, who don't want to compromise with Obama, and are thus causing the Sequester to go off. It seems like far too late for any sort of compromise to be made. The deadline is March 1st, but it's quite likely they could replace the cuts retroactively. That's likely to happen, but probably only after the effects of austerity kick in once the cuts hit home.