President Barack Obama today doubled down on his sequester strategy, and promised weeks of accumulating pain for the public until the GOP cries uncle on taxes.
“If Congress comes to its senses — a week from now, a month from now, three months from now — then there’s a lot of open running room there for us to grow our economy much more quickly and to advance the agenda of the American people dramatically,” he told reports at a midday press conference today.
“So this is a temporary stop on what I believe is the long-term, outstanding prospect for American growth and greatness,” he claimed.
But he tried to head off GOP charges that he’s putting the government on strike until he squeezes extra taxes from the public.
“Let’s be clear,” he insisted. “None of this is necessary. It’s happening because of a choice that Republicans in Congress have made. They’ve allowed these cuts to happen, because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful loophole to help reduce the deficit.”
He also posed as the reassuring leader of the nation, even though his hard-nosed strategy may cause furloughs and pay cuts for many government employees, plus much inconvenience for local employers and parents.
“We will get through this,” said Obama, who pushed the sequester into the 2011 budget deal, and who spent the last few weeks predicting great pain for the public.
“This is not going to be a apocalypse, I think as some people have said. It’s just dumb. … It’s going to hurt individual people and it’s going to hurt the economy overall.”
“The good news is the American people are strong and they’re resilient … but Washington sure isn’t making it easy,” he claimed.
The sequester will trim the $85 billion from federal spending of approximately $3.8 trillion in 2013. That’s roughly 2 percent, and it will leave 2013 spending slightly above 2012’s spending levels.
However, the spending cuts have been concentrated into the last few months of spending by the Pentagon and civilian agencies, forcing them to slice 10 percent or 5 percent from the last six months of their 2013 spending.
The concentration was partly caused by Obama, who insisted that the sequester be delayed from January to March.
Obama also used the sequester cuts to hide the impact of his own policies, by blaming the economy’s poor economic performance on the GOP’s opposition to taxes.
“Every time that we get a piece of economic news, over the next month, next two months, next six months, as long as the sequester is in place, we’ll know that that economic news could have been better if Congress had not failed to act,” he claimed.
However, the financial impact of the sequester will be overshadowed by $150 billion in new tax increases already won by Obama.
In 2013, the payroll-tax holiday will take $93.4 billion from all taxpayers, Obamacare will levy $29 billion, and new upper-income taxes will extract $27 billion from wealthy taxpayers, according to a report by the Heritage Foundation.
Obama sketched out his expectation that public press can sway some GOP legislators to support taxes.
“There is a caucus of common sense up on Capitol Hill. It’s just — it’s a silent group right now, and we want to make sure that their voices start getting heard,” he claimed.
The GOP’s anti-tax caucus, he suggested, is motivated by animus towards him, not an ideological preference for small government and low taxes.
“I recognize that it’s very hard for Republican leaders to be perceived as making concessions to me,” he claimed. “Sometimes, I reflect is there something else I could do to make these guys … not paint horns on my head.”
Even as he pushed his hard-nosed strategy that may cause furloughs and pay cuts for many government employees, plus much inconvenience for local employers and parents, Obama tried to deflect public anger over the sequester from the White House to the Republicans in Congress.
“It sounds like you’re saying that this is a Republican problem and not one that you bear any responsibility for?” asked one reporter.
“Well, Julie, give me an example of what I might do,” he replied.