“Winning” The Sequester

Chait sighs at the short-sightedness of Republicans:

It is true that, if you define the struggle in purely zero-sum terms, Republicans can “win.” What they can win is the ability to keep in place, more or less permanently, spending reductions that both exempt the programs they most badly want to cut and that are designed stupidly so as to create maximum harm for minimum budgetary saving. Yes, Obama would probably find this more bothersome than would Republicans.

Of course, this “victory” would mean giving up a chance to cut spending on Medicare and Social Security. Since these programs will consume a growing share of the federal budget, the Republican strategy would mean leaving in place higher spending. And since they’re so popular — even Republican voters don’t want to cut them — Republicans are determined to refuse a golden opportunity to secure bipartisan [cover] for something they’ll never have the political standing to carry out on their own. In a policy terms, “winning” means suicidal spite.

Kornacki thinks that “we’re probably stuck with the sequester for the rest of this fiscal year – and maybe well beyond that.” But Chait is on to something critical when he points out that these Republicans are also signing up for the biggest defense cuts since the 1990s. I want much more radical action on Medicare cuts, as well as defense, but ironically, it will have to be the president who proposes them to a few Republican Senators, as he promised in his State of the Union.

The current GOP, in other words, would rather kill government programs that work and get half the sequester’s savings from defense than budge an inch on tax revenues, or reform Medicare with a Democratic president prepared to take on his own party. Suicidal spite is the right expression. But isn’t that the core spirit of the rump of the old South now controlling the GOP? It’s all pride and no pragmatism. And most of the time, they lose anyway. With guns blazing.