5:18 PM EST, February 21, 2013
The way it was supposed to work, Congress would find the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that are set to go into effect March 1 so unappealing, so damaging, that Republicans and Democrats would come together and fashion a deficit-reduction plan in a more intelligent, less harmful manner.
Well, apparently that's not the way it's going to work — much to the shame of Congress and the White House.
With what is known as "sequestration" imminent, nobody who could do anything about it can be found in the nation's capital. Congress is in the midst of a 10-day recess. President Obama just wrapped up a three-day golf holiday, playing 18 holes with golf superstar Tiger Woods before returning to Washington.
Is it too naive to suggest that Congress come back too and do its job?
Sequestration would require draconian domestic spending cuts and force the Pentagon to lop $500 billion off the defense budget over 10 years, leaving Connecticut's huge defense industry, for example, to deal with the impending reality of fewer contracts and the specter of job losses.
Giving Mr. Obama his due, at least before he left town he laid out the rudiments of a short-term plan that would cut spending but do less damage to needed programs and services than the crude budget hacking that sequestration would impose.
Mr. Obama would meet his deficit downsizing target by introducing revenue increases as well as spending cuts into the mix. He would do this by closing tax loopholes and withdrawing lollipops such as billion-dollar credits and subsidies to huge oil and agribusiness conglomerates.
That's a smart, humane and just way to do it.
Republicans, mostly, and some Democrats are having none of the new revenue. They appear ready to just lie back and let the sequestration roll over them — and try to pick up the pieces later by restoring some of the more egregious spending cuts.
But why introduce such uncertainty at a time when the anemic economy, although recovering, is having difficulty picking up steam? Why keep manufacturing these budget crises?
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