The Sequester and the GOP’s Wobbly ‘Stool’

In many ways the showdown underway in Washington over the budget sequester is complicated and confusing. But on one level is it clarifying: It has revealed the supremacy of the Republican Party's economic wing over its other key factions.

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Ronald Reagan Library/Getty Images)

US President Ronald Reagan holds the trunk of a baby elephant, presented to him in a ceremony by President Jayewardene of Sri Lanka on June 18,1984.

In many ways the showdown underway in Washington over the budget sequester is complicated and confusing. But on one level is it clarifying: It has revealed the supremacy of the Republican Party’s economic wing over its other key factions.

For decades, Republicans have talked about their three-legged stool–the coalition assembled by Ronald Reagan that has defined their party ever since: economic conservatives, social conservatives and defense conservatives. The three groups have never worked in perfect harmony. But when there’s tension, it’s usually among social and economic conservatives. Heartland evangelicals and Wall Street financiers have precious little in common. Evangelical Republicans, for instance, had little love for an economy-first candidate like Mitt Romney. But their (last) favorite candidate, the intensely pro-life Rick Santorum, was ultimately steamrolled. George W. Bush labored to keep social conservatives on his side with issues like a gay marriage ban. But ultimately many evangelicals were disappointed with his presidency.

Now comes the sequester, which has, for the first time since at least September 11, 2001, put the GOP’s defense and economic wings in conflict. With the sequester scheduled to inflict $46 billion in cuts to the Pentagon budget, President Obama has offered an alternative that would mitigate the cuts, in part, by raising taxes on the wealthy. But Republican leaders won’t swallow any new taxes or accept smaller cuts to the federal budget.

And so, defense will get the budget ax. And national security conservatives, long accustomed to being granted virtually every wish by their party, find themselves appalled. Bill Kristol, a reliable spokesman for the GOP’s defense wing, calls the sequester “deeply irresponsible,” and a threat to national security (in part, he says, because it will force the military to keep one aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf instead of two). John McCain, who shares Kristol’s passion for defense, has hinted he might support closing tax loopholes to blunt the Pentagon cuts.

But it appears that the likes of Kristol and McCain have lost out to economic conservatives, who insist that nothing–not even the defense budget–is more important than shrinking the budget without raising taxes. The Republican party still is a long way from civil war. But that stool is looking awfully wobbly right now.

50 comments
Rotosnitter
Rotosnitter

The R's have 3 legs. A right leg, a right leg, and a right leg. Hence the stool topples.

Matt43
Matt43

RE: "George W. Bush labored to keep social conservatives on his side with issues like a gay marriage ban"

Wrong president.  DOMA was signed by President Clinton in 1996...

tomsquawk
tomsquawk

Would really like to see discussion centered on the issues instead of party lines. Dems/Reps/They/Them; time to stop reading when you see that.

JoeCogan
JoeCogan

Defense conservatives may be howling loudest over the sequester, but it's the social conservatives who are going to wind up either leaving the Party or being forced out if the GOP is to remain viable on a national level.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

I always heard the cure for wobbly stool was more fiber.

barbi1706
barbi1706

The sequester will only take us back to the amount of money that the country was spending back to 2011 - big deal. Working in the school system, i can say that more people had more jobs in 2011 then they do now. Now, our class rooms are even bigger with less help due to more staff cut backs. We provide more "freebies" to illegal immigrants and their families (which increases the amount of illegal immigrants in our school district now), while we have more cut backs to school staff. Our school district is literally crumbling under this amount weight. I am more than happy to go back to our 2011 budget.

tomsquawk
tomsquawk

i'm not sure what percentage the across the board cuts are, but i'm sure everyone can suck it up a little

barbi1706
barbi1706

The sequester will only take us back to our 2011 budget - big deal. Let's not over react. Actually the budget for the achool district that i work in was better in 2011. Now, we give tons of "freebies" to illegal immigrants while more American teacher's are required to have larger clqssrooms (by 30%) and loose their classroom aides. More jobs are being lost in other areas of the school district, too. Many are out on sick leave due to being stressed by an overload of student's as the government continues to cut more jobs. Some employees are so atressed that they are actually leaving the school district (not an easy job to get) all togwther. AND WHILE THIS GETS WORSE EVERY SINGLE YEAR, we are providing more and more services to illegal immigrants and their families.

NancyeKirtley
NancyeKirtley

...ah...the Republicans...quickly becoming about as relative to the American People as the Whig Party. They freak out and tell outragous lies..(ie: Chuck Hagel is a friend to Hammas or that Inmates at GITMO will get Veteran's Benefits...for a recient start..) and cost us anythere from $45,000. a year for the cheap ones and $175,000. to $193,400. for the more expensive ones a year...(That works out to either nearly $440. at $175,000. or over $500. a day at $193,400. for most of these Clowns in Office..people..)

Wanna "CUT THE BUDGET....START THERE.....Pay these people what they are really worth. 

They have all gotten Rich and Fat off the Tax Payers money while they sit back and Outsource our Jobs to other cheaper labor countries then expect us to buy the trash they import back at us, from China and whatever..with the scant little Unemployment or Social Security or some min wage jobs we have to settle for, after our Good ones get outsourced..

Pay them the median wage of the State they come from and that is all.

Ohiolib
Ohiolib

Actually, the stool is awfully smelly right now....even more than usual.

Sue_N
Sue_N

Can we please stop using the words "economics" and "Republicans" together? The GOP has no economic policy, it only has an economic ideology and an economic mythology. GOPers not only do not care about actual economics, they don't even understand how actual economics works.

The sooner we can stop acting like these people are serious, the better off we'll be.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Just so I'm clear-The "economic conservatives" are the ones who want something damaging to the economy to occur? And the "defense conservatives" are the ones who cheered the US into Iraq?

Can we stop calling people on the right "conservative"?

frmyheart
frmyheart

@CrowleyTIME dem gop old boys . . everyone over 60

tsj_washington
tsj_washington

@CrowleyTIME the march cuts are only 4 % hopefully they cut another 4 % as part of the CR at the end of march

SuppressThis
SuppressThis

@CrowleyTIME I'm pretty sure their social leg was amputated sometime during the 1980's

jmac
jmac

There's a new book on the right wing economic hero, Coolidge.  (loved by George Will, Palin, Bachmann, Bush jr. and Ryan) which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that right-wing Republicans are truly 'voodoo' on the economy as they completely ignore history.   What's next on the horizon - a book on Bush Jr.'s 'miracle economy'  (as he had to claim, "I'm not an economist" as the economy was completely collapsing)?  I wouldn't be surprised.   

worleyeoe
worleyeoe

Sure. And Obama is falling all over himself to see those $40B of non-defense cuts wreak havoc across our once great land. Right! Let's just act like the right-wing nut jobs are the only one sitting at a wobbly table. Keep it up, Crowley.

La_Randy
La_Randy

I believe you are over analyzing the Republican party platform.

Simply put, this is now a one legged stool, if  President Obama is for it we are against it and if it hurts the country, tough luck.

I don't think even bone deep ignorance is an explanation of this party's politics anymore. 

AfGuy
AfGuy

"Stool" does have a second meaning... and, when talking about GOP policies and politics, might be more applicable.

It's CRAP.... pure, unadulterated CRAP.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

So what happens to a stool when all three legs are constantly bent out of shape?

xrobespierre
xrobespierre

@Matt43

RE: "Wrong president. DOMA was signed by President Clinton in 1996..."

Wrong Law. FMA was a proposed amendment to the Constitution which would have limited marriage in the U.S. to unions of one man and one woman. In 2004, President Bush expressed support for this amendment...

xrobespierre
xrobespierre

The day the GOP disenfranchises the social conservatives is the day I consider voting for them. Until that time, there isn't even a choice.

tom.litton
tom.litton

@tomsquawk I think it's like 8%.  However the problem isn't the cuts so much as the lack of planning for them. 

Plus any cuts are going to have a negative impact on the economy.   It's best from an economic perspective (and i think a fiscal perspective) to back load all of the cuts, and even increase spending in the near term.   This is especially true since 

A. We are going to be forced to update our infrastructure relatively soon. 

B.  We can borrow money at an all time low now and if we wait it will be much more expensive.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@tomsquawk  

Are you sure?  Why do we have to let the rich keep their tax loopholes?

I would consider this:

"Disposable Income".  It's a very interesting word and it is at the very core of the whole revenue/cuts issue.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@Paul,nnto Well, it's the same thing as "tax and spend liberals" are somehow bad, but "cut taxes and spend even more" so-called fiscal conservatives are the responsible ones.

Both memes, along with the "Republicans are deficit hawks" and "Paul Ryan is a wonk," need to die in a fire.

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

@AfGuy It's an unfortunate choice of headline, as I immediately thought "loose stool".

tomsquawk
tomsquawk

@tom.litton @tomsquawk  

lack of planning, yes. easier to stick with the scenario that the good times keep coming and a storm never brews

i was doing some work with a political subdivision and asked the program director what he would do when the funding ran out. his reply: "oh, don't worry, there's always another program". 

as far as 8% being draconian, maybe we can settle on something? i've seen alot of waste, even around my own household. pretty hard to take something away after it's been given.

show how to cut the waste and maybe that can be replaced by infrastructure. i've been on the inside of billing and i can tell you there is plenty of waste everywhere.


tomsquawk
tomsquawk

@53_3 @tomsquawk my comment on across the board cuts was related to governmental budgets. i had the opportunity to work in Wash. D.C. tax dollars are real fun to spend; nothing better than the public trough.  i'm sure there are alot of $5,000 hammers that can be cut out. i've also had experience at the municipal level.

i wasn't thinking about individuals and loopholes. however, elimination of loopholes may be those tax incentives that are no longer relevant. i can't think of any for myself except when i had a home mortgage. also, i lived in Canada and the govt. took about half, there were no deductions. but you did get "free" health care. pay taxes, get health care, and it wasn't that bad. M.D's that wanted to make scads moved across the border. (Canadians are unarmed americans with a health card).

 i was a big fan of the investment tax credit for corporations here; companies bought depreciable capital equipment for manufacturing and got 10% credit direct to taxes. that was in the late 70's.

not sure what "rich" constitutes. that term can be polarizing. "disposable income" would probably become as arguable as immigration and gun control so would appreciate anything you could add there. btw way, i never heard the rich and poor argument in Canada.

ok, well, a long-winded ramble of random thoughts. i guess what disappoints me is the rep/dem/they/them mindset where we are now. would like to see "we" more often..

ok, so Disposable Income; please expand, sounds interesting

thanks.

 





outsider
outsider

Love it Sue! Not just die, but in a fire! @Sue_N

tomsquawk
tomsquawk

@tom.litton @tomsquawk definitely the PACs. it seemed like the worst ads were from them. of course, we have been trying to reform campaign spending for years. what about x number of taxpayer funded debates and then the candidates could just tweet each other and we could follow?

guess my comment regarding efficiency was that if you had to do the same amount of work with less you may may learn efficiency in order to be effectively meeting your mission and getting home for dinner?

thanks


tom.litton
tom.litton

@tomsquawk @tom.litton  

If you cut the budget by x% you just reduce it's effectiveness, not make it more efficient.  It will still be just as wasteful as before, but will simply do less.  

There are auditors at every level.  The federal government is audited by the GAO, most states have an elected official for auditing (at least MO does).  I'm sure the county and city levels have auditors (at least the large ones).  

No, government isn't very efficient or effective, but it provides a whole host of useful services that everyone depends on.  

One thing that would help would be to get money out of politics.   Either through public financing of elections or blind campaign contributions. 

tomsquawk
tomsquawk

@tom.litton @tomsquawk 

 i would ask all programs, government and contractors in private industry to cut x% across the board. we could probably make that drone for less. i retired early and am living just fine on less, probably even better. so, you run your own program. come in under budget or if you are a Dem we make you sit in a room with Rush. If a Rep, you get Wolf. 

also, round up all the curmudgeons and have them audit all the debits and credits flowing through the programs. i've worked in and looked at budgets for NPO's, private industry, private and public project implementations..there is always someplace to save. 

and, threaten professional politicians with term limits if they don't cut the pork in their back yard. i watch very closely projects in my home town. there are alot of nice-to-haves. my city just instituted a web-based software app where neighbors can get to "know each other". it turned into Craig's List. Why did the govt have to do this? If neighbors cared they would put up a bulletin board for their neighborhood and do it themselves with no drain on property taxes.

also, encourage primitive camping in the desert. or go live in a third world country and get a perspective.

i find neither side to be wholly effective or wholly efficient!

peace



tom.litton
tom.litton

@tomsquawk @tom.litton Only an idiot would be against making the government more effective and efficient.  The question is how to do it?  In order to do it, you need to incentivize (sp?) efficiency.    How do you do that without harming effectiveness?  

I think that is a major disagreement between the 2 parties.  Democrats would rather error on the side of effectiveness (so more people get help they need) and republicans would rather error on the side of efficiency (so more resources are saved).

tom.litton
tom.litton

@tomsquawk @53_3 We also cut more than $1.5T almost twice as much revenue raised. 

 However, i'm ok with just reasonable cuts so long as they are back loaded and don't have a major effect on government programs like food stamps, unemployment, and entitlements.

There can be another deal of tax cuts + revenue when entitlements are handled and/or during the budget negotiations at the end of march.

tomsquawk
tomsquawk

@53_3 a good enough reason is that it puts the decision of what is enough or too little in the hands of a third party

fitty_three
fitty_three

And you haven't noticed that the GOP does not want cuts with revenues?  And why is taxing the rich "finished" when their revenue stream is at a 40 year high?

Is that a good enough reason to ignore the issue of disposable income?

reallife
reallife

@53_3@tomsquawk "continuing effort to balance the budget and cut spending"  

hahahaha  "continuing'? excuse me? balance the budget? what budget? LOL cut spending? huh?


Francis, Francis, Francis, you're either 16 years old or the biggest moron around


tomsquawk
tomsquawk

@53_3@tomsquawki think it is fair to say "revenue must be part of any continuing effort to balance the budget and cut spending". i thought we just finished taxing the rich, where are the cuts?

fitty_three
fitty_three

@tomsquawk

Okeay, without ornamentation, here are some of what I believe are fundamental aspects.

1. On the $900 hammer issue, that is everywhere, but it is the fault of private industry as well as the government and the resolution of these problems should not fall on the middle class.  This holds true for both defense and medical.  just cuts won't affect this aspect of inefficiency - the moneymakers will continue to find ways to keep the cash flow up regardless of how the middle class suffers. 

2.  I have to define high incomes somehow.  "Rich" is just a word to do that.

3. Disposable income is the income that is above and beyond the minimum income needed to live a decent life (not saying exceptional, just a decent, normal life). 

4.. That said, regardless of what income is considered appropriate, these truths about it exist: 

.....a.  The lowest third of the people on the economic ladder have the least , approximately zero, or below, of disposable income.Savings is generally zero and all income is spent on necessities.

.....b. The middle third have enough for minimal to decent extra income to lead a life in which they can expand their horizons (start a new business, pay the extra for collage, enjoy vacations, etc).  At the bottom, there's little disposable income, at the top of this segment, there's a fair amount.  Savings is generally small to sufficient and most, to a significant part of, income in this bracket is spent on necessities.

....c. The highest third have plenty of disposable income.  It ranges from plenty to live a good life, but no more to extremely high levels of disposable income - the "rich".  Income in this ranges from a small but significant amount expended for necessities to a percentage of income devoted to necessities asymptotically approaching zero.

Ok, given all that, it is clear that given (1), and reminding you about (2), and point out the facts that are laid out in (3), that it is clear that a flat tax will hurt those at the bottom and are no burden at all for those at the top.  That much is clear.  Whether it is important to you or to me (it is) is a different matter and forms the basis of our respective opinions.

So obviously, it is not just a simple "we can afford it" thing, because it is decidedly not true, given the above.  This is the basis of my opinion that a progressive taxation approach is needed and that any taxation scheme to generate revenues must take this into consideration, therefore, revenue must be part of any continuing effort to balance the budget and cut spending.


Step11
Step11

@Sue_N  

Not true.  Aliens said it best - "Nuke 'em from orbit - it's the only way to be sure."

Think_again
Think_again

@Sue_N 

Stake first; then follow with fire. Oh, and Zombies require impalement of the head. Memes are the toughest of the undead.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@outsider2011 It's the only way to be sure they're really dead.