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Obama weekly address: Congress must act now to stop the 'Republican' sequester that I insisted be included in that bill I signed

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By Doug Powers  •  February 23, 2013 07:30 PM

**Written by Doug Powers

President Obama gave his weekly address on Saturday, and he was surprisingly candid in admitting that sequestration was at least in part the idea of the White House, and that the cuts can be realigned to limit the impact so it won’t be as bad as many are reporting.

If you didn’t believe a word of the previous sentence, good on you:

But here’s the thing: these cuts don’t have to happen. Congress can turn them off anytime with just a little compromise. They can pass a balanced plan for deficit reduction. They can cut spending in a smart way, and close wasteful tax loopholes for the well-off and well-connected.

Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans in Congress have decided that instead of compromising – instead of asking anything of the wealthiest Americans – they would rather let these cuts fall squarely on the middle class.

Here’s what that choice means. Once these cuts take effect, thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off, and tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, causing delays across the country. Even President Bush’s director of the National Institutes of Health says these cuts will set back medical science for a generation.

How bad will it really be? The other day Yuval Levin at NRO gave it some perspective:

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So why is the president talking about firing all the firemen and watching half the country die of food poisoning? He’s doing it for political effect, of course. But he’s able to do it because the sequester is targeted largely at discretionary spending. Under the sequester, discretionary spending (including both domestic and defense) will equal $1.213 trillion in 2013. It was $1.285 trillion in 2012, so it would indeed see a decline of about $72 billion from last year to this year. Discretionary spending in 2013 would thus be roughly equal to what it was in 2009—that dreadful year of federal government austerity. Of that total reduction from 2012 spending, about $43 billion would be cut from defense-discretionary spending and about $29 billion would come out of domestic-discretionary spending. The president’s scare tactics focus almost exclusively on the domestic-discretionary portion, so he is saying that our economy and government will basically cease to function because we will be spending $29 billion less on these domestic-discretionary programs this year than last year. $29 billion is about what the federal government spends in 72 hours. In fact, because this year is not a leap year while last year was, about a third of that spending cut was going to happen anyway across the federal budget.

When the government wants to spend an additional $29 billion, they tell us it’s a drop in the bucket and we won’t even notice. But when they are faced with cutting that much from domestic discretionary spending, suddenly this is what we’re in for:

So who is most responsible for the idea of sequestration? The other day, Montana Democrat Sen. Max Baucus said of the sequester, “the White House recommended it, frankly.”

In 2011, President Obama seemed to agree: There should be no easy off ramps in the fiscal deal and “I will veto any efforts to undo the sequester”:

Also, Joe Biden said the sequester was the overwhelming redeeming feature of the fiscal deal. That and buy a shotgun.

As for the cuts, CNN’s not exactly trying to quell the manufactured panic:

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Last but not least, Doug Ross has a transcript of the secret meeting between Obama and House Republicans.

Update: The White House adds to the list of those who would be affected by the sequester:

The White House was also going to warn of human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together and mass hysteria, but fears of copyright infringement lawsuits from Columbia Pictures have kept them from doing that… so far.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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