Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais.)
As sequestration churns on, President Obama is reaching out to moderate Republican members of the Senate to see if he can still put a deal together. He is coming to the Hill next week for a Republican luncheon, and hosting other members for dinner tonight. The president is also picking up the phone. “He just called me,” Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters yesterday. “What I see from the president is probably the most encouraging engagement on a big issue that I’ve seen since the early years of his presidency. He wants to do the big deal.”
This should, and does, worry progressives inside and outside of Congress. The default position among center-left pundits is that if Obama gets Republicans to agree on a grand deficit reduction package that includes new revenue, he’s “won.” But that assumption really needs to be interrogated, and each concession examined.
Sequestration is a terrible policy; the cuts will touch a number of vital government functions and inflict unnecessary pain on many Americans. But here’s what Obama is proposing: an unbalanced package of $930 billion in cuts and $580 billion in revenue, with an additional $100 billion in deficit reduction through Chained CPI. This is the formula that would cut Social Security benefits $1,000 per year for some seniors and take $1,400 per year from disabled veterans.
Is that truly better? The sequestration cuts are damaging, but money taken away can always be restored later. (In this case it would involve scrapping the Budget Control Act, which is no doubt more difficult.) Chained CPI, however, permanently cuts the safety net, and that’s much harder to ever undo—and the fact that a Democratic president did it opens the door to even more cuts down the road.