Opinion » Editorial

Defeat

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Not to mince words, the Obama administration's cave-in to the Tea Party fanatics who now control the Republican Party was not a mutual accommodation but surrender. The apologists for the wretched bill that passed both houses of Congress, averting immediate catastrophe by allowing what should have been a routine raising of the nation's debt limit, will say that it achieved a reduction in the deficit while safeguarding Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

It did no such thing. The "trigger" that will be activated during the presidential campaign of 2012 (following the all-too-predictable failure of a bipartisan commission to agree on further cuts) will initiate an attack squarely against those entitlements.

In theory, defense appropriations are coupled with such domestic spending as the automatic targets of the current agreement's second stage. Obama and the Democratic leadership, somewhat sensibly, wanted to balance the inevitable draconian cuts with equivalent revocations of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy (or "job creators" in GOP-speak, despite the failure of the corporate elite to create, or even attempt to create, any jobs except in Third World sweatshops). But the Tea Partiers, who now effectively dictate Republican policy, said "no" to the idea of such shared sacrifice, relenting only to the point of substituting defense spending as a theoretically paired element.

But let's not kid ourselves. As for the supposed "coupling" of defense cuts with entitlement cuts in the post-commission, post-trigger second stage, here is a statement from 8th District congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (who voted for the bill) that gives the lie to that hope: "I am frustrated that defense cuts were once again put on the table at the eleventh hour. The men and women of our Armed Forces deserve the full support and backing of Congress. As the select committee looks at cuts, I will work closely with House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon to ensure that these cuts don't come on the backs of our men and women at Fort Campbell or our National Guard Units. I will be actively watching as we move forward and will fight to make sure we continue to supply these brave servicemen and women, and their families, with the resources they need."

In other words, this is one kicker that won't kick in. Blackburn's telling it like it is. To carve out the additional $1.5 trillion in mandated further reductions, the GOP surgeons of the House will come right back to the domestic side, which will already have been cut to the bone.

Meanwhile, the anti-stimulus bill (which is what this monstrosity really is) will further deplete such seed money as might still exist, making unemployment that much worse. Without having done much to deserve it, other than by being feckless, the president may find his name being appropriated to describe the new "Obamavilles" of a barren economic landscape.

If only the Democrats in the House had been imaginative enough to form a coalition with the real purists among the Tea Partiers to defeat the debt-limit bill, the president would then have had both the opportunity and the excuse to invoke the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing the nation's debts without mortgaging its future. If only.

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