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GOP Plan to Torpedo Economy With Sequester Could Backfire in 2014

February 24, 2013 in Blogs

By Benjamin I. Paige, AlterNet

It appears increasingly likely that congressional Republicans will allow the “sequester” of automatic, indiscriminate spending cuts to take effect on March 1. If so, they will cause a major economic and political crisis for the country. But this prospect also creates opportunities for progressive activists and organizations. We may be able to avoid the disaster, or if it occurs (which seems more likely), we can make clear that congressional Republicans are responsible and should be flushed out of office in 2014. The 2014 congressional elections could be a truly transformational moment for the United States if a tidal wave of outrage were to drown ultra-conservative Republicans in competitive and “safe” seats alike.

The February 17 NYTeditorial, “The Real Cost of Shrinking Government,” sketches out some of the most alarming likely impacts of the next seven months of sequester. The roughly 8 percent cuts in military programs and 5 percent cuts in all (!) domestic discretionary programs will operate like a meat-axe, with terrible macro-economic effects (perhaps a million jobs lost if they go on for two years) and a great deal of inefficiency, danger and human suffering as everything from HeadStart to air traffic controllers to nuclear safety is impacted.

My own view is that the military should be cut by much more than 8 percent, but this is not the way to do it. Randomly destructive cuts are likely to backfire and might ultimately lead to more unnecessary military spending rather than less. Every one of the domestic cuts will be harmful to the country.

The facts about the devastating effects of the sequester are well known to experts in CBO, think tanks and the like, but they are not yet on the radar screens of most ordinary citizens. The NYT editorial, though imperfect (e.g., not making clear the sources for its estimates), constitutes a useful wakeup call for elite audiences and should be disseminated. Others, including the White House and House Democrats, are beginning to say the same sort of thing. But much more will be needed in order to reach all progressive activists, let alone the average American. It is important to get the word out.


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