Fine. Then change the law. That's why we have a Congress. Discriminate. Prioritize. That's why we have budgets. Except that the Democratic Senate hasn't passed one in four years. And the White House, which proposed the sequester in the first place, had 18 months to establish rational priorities among accounts — and did nothing.
When the GOP House passed an alternative that cut where the real money is — entitlement spending — President Obama threatened a veto. Meaning, he would have insisted that the sequester go into effect — the very same sequester he now tells us will bring on Armageddon.
Good grief. The entire sequester would have reduced last year's deficit from $1.33 trillion to $1.24 trillion. A fraction of a fraction. Nonetheless, insists Obama, such a cut is intolerable. It has to be “balanced” — i.e., largely replaced — by yet more taxes.
Which demonstrates that, for Obama, this is not about deficit reduction, which interests him not at all. The purpose is purely political: to complete his Election Day victory by breaking the Republican opposition.
At the fiscal cliff, Obama broke — and split — the Republicans on taxes. With the sequester, he intends to break them on spending. Make the cuts as painful as possible, and watch the Republicans come crawling for a “balanced” (i.e., tax hiking) deal.
In the past two years, House Republicans stopped cold Obama's left-liberal agenda. Break them now and the road is open to resume enactment of the expansive, entitlement-state liberalism that Obama proclaimed in his second inaugural address.
But he cannot win if “nothing bad really happens.” Indeed, he'd look both foolish and cynical for having cried wolf. His incentive to deliberately make the most painful and socially disruptive cuts possible (say, oh, releasing illegal immigrants from detention) is enormous. And alarming.
Charles Krauthammer's email address is email@example.com.
WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP