Carney undercuts Obama’s sequester-scare strategy

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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White House spokesman Jay Carney backed away Wednesday from his boss’ apocalyptic claims of imminent mass-layoffs if Congress does not stop the scheduled budget sequester by raising taxes.

“Republicans in Congress face a simple choice,” President Barack Obama claimed yesterday.

“Are they willing to compromise … or would they rather put hundreds of thousands of jobs and our entire economy at risk just to protect a few special interest tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations?” he said Feb. 19.

But pressed today by reporters about if the sequester would for immediately force of “hundreds of thousands” of Americans, Carney demurred on Obama’s dire claims.

“No, but there will be job losses,” he said.

Still, Carney pushed the same alarmist line that Obama has adopted over the last few weeks.

Republicans are willing “to drive our economy off a cliff … in order to advanced ideological goals,” he claimed Wednesday.

His rhetoric matches Obama’s Feb. 19 predictions.

“Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced,” Obama declared. “FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare for their kids.”

The sequester will trim roughly $42 billion to $85 billion in 2013, or perhaps two percent, from the federal government’s $3.8 trillion 2013 budget.

“If lawmakers chose to prevent those automatic cuts each year without making other changes that reduced spending by offsetting amounts, spending would be $42 billion higher in 2013 and $995 billion (or about 2 percent) higher over the 2014–2023 period than is projected in CBO’s current baseline,” said CBO’s February report, titled “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023.”

A $42 billion cut in 2013 is equivalent to roughly one cent from every dollar of 2013 spending.

The government’s 2013 budget includes deficit spending of roughly $900 billion, which will push the federal debt to almost $17 trillion.

Under pressure from skeptical reporters, Carney also backed away from Obama’s claim that parents would have to “scramble” for day care.

Whether the impact “begins on March 1 or in the near future, the impact on our economy and the impact our families’ lives is real,” he said when asked if the sequester would close day-care centers on March 1.

GOP leaders say they are willing to reduce the impact of the sequester, but are demanding that any increases tax from loophole closing be used to reduce other taxes.

They are also highlighting Obama’s role in creating the sequester during the 2011 budget crisis, and his promise to enforce the sequester rather than raise taxes.

“Already some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts,” he declared in Nov. 2011. “My message to them is simple: No … I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending.”

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