In Washington, history is malleable and the frequent victim of creative revisionism. Just listen to the debate over the sequester, with each side pointing a finger and claiming, “It’s the other guy’s fault.”
The true story bears little resemblance to the propaganda you hear today.
In August 2011, just like today, there was no shortage of political propaganda. Except, back then, both the president and Speaker John Boehner were all too eager to praise the debt ceiling deal that gave life to the sequester. President Obama claimed the Budget Control Act was a positive step forward while Speaker Boehner crowed that he got 98 percent of what he wanted.
Today, they are each trying to convince the American people the other is to blame for the sequester and its potential consequences. And once again, Republican leadership is holding hands with Democrats to create another faux crisis in the political embodiment of Albert Einstein’s famous line: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
At some point, Republicans have to admit we were wrong and stand up for the fiscally responsible principles our party is supposed to represent.
Back in August of 2011, I was a member of Congress. Many of my colleagues were ready to fight over the debt limit and force the spending cuts our government needs — even at the risk of a government shutdown. We knew the votes would be tough, but the most important votes always are. We believed nothing less could stop the crisis merry-go-round — the result of kicking the can down the road every time a deadline approached.
Instead, Republican leadership took the path of least resistance, claiming it would lead to huge electoral success. Clearly, that did not turn out the way they expected.
Instead of pointing fingers and recreating history, it is time for Republican leadership to deal with the truth. The truth is that $85 billion in cuts this year is not catastrophic. In fact, it is only 2.3 percent of the total amount of money the federal government will spend this year. If there is a catastrophe, it is a lack of courage from our own leadership and the chronic refusal to make the tough decisions our country needs.
At some point, the fiscal irresponsibility on both sides has to stop, and it won’t be painless. The painful truth is it will take much more than the sequester to avert a full-blown fiscal crisis. The truth is the federal government will still spend $15 billion more this year than last — even with the sequester. That is not a cut; it is merely a deceleration in the rate of growth. It’s like bragging about a new diet while stuffing your face with cake.
It is time for Republicans to go on offense. Instead of running away from the sequester, Republicans should make the president defend his failed record of piling up trillion-dollar deficits. Instead of stooping to the president’s kindergarten level, Republicans should act like the responsible adults in the room and tell the American people the truth — that our fiscal crisis demands spending cuts. We cannot spend or tax our way out of this mess.
Congressional Republicans will not be heard until the American people are forced to focus on the country’s fiscal problems. Folding your cards, going along, or trying to blame someone else for what you helped to create is a losing strategy. The 2012 elections proved that. Standing up for your principles, facing the truth head-on, and bringing your case to the people — that’s a winning formula. The 2010 elections proved that.
March 1 is not the only deadline to keep an eye on. Mark your calendars for March 27, the date of the next Washington-created crisis, when the government’s continuing resolution funding runs out. Will Republican leadership have the stomach for a principled stand or will they point a finger at President Obama and cower in fear?
Only time will tell.
Jeff Landry represented the Third Congressional District in Louisiana from 2011-2013.