Economy to Spending Cuts: Ouch!

If you went perusing big conservative web sites today—National ReviewWeekly Standard, Glenn Beck's "The Blaze"—you would have searched in vain for any mention of the report released today by the Congressional Budget Office, the latest of their periodic assessments of the state of the budget and the economy. That's not because it was full of good news that the Obama administration will cheer. It's because most of what the CBO had to say undermines the arguments Republicans routinely make about these topics.

You can't listen to a Republican talk for five minutes without hearing that we have to rein in Barack Obama's out-of-control spending. But here's the CBO: "The federal budget deficit, which shrank as a percentage of GDP for the third year in a row in 2012, will fall again in 2013, if current laws remain the same. At an estimated $845 billion, the 2013 imbalance would be the first deficit in five years below $1 trillion; and at 5.3 percent of GDP, it would be only about half as large, relative to the size of the economy, as the deficit was in 2009."

Furthermore, the CBO predicts that GDP will grow by an anemic 1.4 percent this year—due in part to, you guessed it, more spending cuts. In this case, it's the "sequester," the huge cuts scheduled to take effect in March unless Congress can avert them.

So to sum up: The deficit has come down dramatically, but spending cuts are holding back the economy. No wonder Republicans don't want to talk about it.

So They Say

"Among all important areas of public policy, election administration is probably the most episodic and prone to the problem of short attention spans. What would the world be like if we only gave intense attention to education, corrections, transportation, and public health problems for a one-week period every four years?"

MIT professor Charles Stewart III


Daily Meme: Back to the Sequester

  • It's a day in a month in a year, so Congress must be on the edge of a crisis! This time, it's the impending sequester. Just like last time.
  • We're counting down to the super cliff shutdown apocalypse on March 1, when automatic cuts totalling $1.2 trillion are scheduled to happen. 
  • Democrats, including the president, are pushing for a short-term fix that doesn't shock the economy—namely, changing out ginormous spending cuts for a mix of  tax-code fixes and far smaller budget cuts.
  • Republicans, including the speaker, are like: No thanks. We don't want your tax-hike crap. Give us spending cuts or give us death!
  • Which, as we note above, would not make the economy too happy...
  • ... but has no influence on the GOP's political calculus. (It's the message that needs the makeover, remember, not the policies.) 
  • The defense cuts are getting all the press (one thing conservatives still know how to do well is get press), but the far less funded science researchers are silently dreading the loss of their much-needed money.
  • Sequester cuts are also threatening to send us into Upton Sinclair's worst nightmare
  • Who's at fault for all this crazy sequester business anyway? Depends who you ask
  • In all likelihood, it seems that this crisis will end with kicking deficit reduction down the road once more. You can always count on Congress to turn one crisis into another.

What We're Writing

  • Sharon Lerner tells us that while the Family and Medical Leave Act is good, the fact that it's unpaid is not. Among the countries that offer more mandated paid maternity leave than us? Djibouti, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Jeff Saginor and Jon Coumes explain what the heck Anonymous is—and what it tells us about the future of activism, online and offline. 

What We're Reading

  • If you're betting on whether legislation will pass or fail in the Senate, put your money on the opposite of whatever Ted Cruz believes in.
  • Blacks and Hispanics waited nearly twice as long as whites to vote in the 2012 election.
  • Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign is finally over, just in time to start thinking about the next one!
  • Does Richard Nixon provide the key to understanding the current NFL commissioner?
  • Will pot be labor's saving grace? Molly Redden weighs the odds.
  • NPR takes a look at people who hold some of the loneliest jobs in politics.
  • Google searches have been turning up what look like racially biased results.
  • Noam Chomsky has a few words on American "decline" and how it hasn't at all affected the way we think about ourselves.
  • Welfare queens, Social Security scoundrels, free-lunch filchers: Move over. Disability Kings are the new kids on the block, defrauding the government with their measly mental problems and trivial terminal diseases.
  • Harry Reid says that new revenue has got to be part of any new budget deal, but as sequestration looms, it's looking all the more unlikely.
  • A Fox News contributor got on the air to blame the hostage incident in Alabama on gun control supporters. No spin!

Poll of the Day

Pew came out with a Tonight Show "man on the street"-style poll—a longish list of questions on current events. An impressive 79 percent of us correctly identified the Twitter logo, and most of us got the Star of David as well, but the location of embattled Syria (50 percent) and the identity of Elizabeth Warren (43 percent) were beyond us, even with multiple choice.

Prospect intern Jon Coumes contributed to today's Ringside Seat.

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