Dolan: Bipartisanship needed to block deep spending cuts

In 2011, President Barack Obama proposed a sequestration, or general cut in government spending, that is set to take effect on March 1. If the sequester is put into action, an estimated $85 billion in automatic government spending cuts for the 2013 fiscal year will be instituted. 

The cuts proposed by the president as a part of sequestration would impact every facet of our government from the Department of Defense to Social Security. Now, with the deadline only a week away it is time for the president to take action and come up with a concrete plan for how he would like Congress to block the sequester. 

Speaker of the House John Boehner put it best when he wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, “Having first proposed and demanded the sequester, it would make sense that the president lead the effort to replace it.”

Thus far, Obama’s approach to resolving the issue of sequestration resembles closely the stance he took on the debt ceiling. His strategy is to leave it in the hands of Congress to compromise and come up with a way out. But leaving it in the hands of Congress has already proven to be an unviable option, as their solution to the debt ceiling crisis was to delay a decision for a few more months.

Instead of taking charge, the president has fiercely accused Republican lawmakers of intransigence. In a recent statement Obama dubbed sequestration a “meat cleaver” approach, arguing that it would have hugely negative impacts on military readiness and job creation. 

The irony is that sequestration was originally Obama’s idea. Now that it is backfiring and could potentially take effect, he is playing the blame game with the Republican House and making bold statements about its widespread economic impact. 

As the president said in a statement on Feb. 19, “Our economy right now is headed in the right direction and it will stay that way as long as there aren’t any more self-inflicted wounds coming out of Washington.” 

With Republicans and Democrats in Congress entangled in an endless finger-pointing match, however, a self-inflicted wound is exactly what they are moving towards. The passivity of both parties in resolving the issue of sequestration stands to have a hugely negative impact on our economy.

The president is correct that the sequestration would impede economic growth and make recovery more difficult. The cuts outlined in the sequestration proposal were intentionally designed to be so detrimental that they would ultimately force Republicans and Democrats in Congress to come to reach a compromise on reducing federal spending.

Thus far, however, the threat of sequestration has not had this desired outcome. It is for this reason that Obama must now take charge, stop relying on Congress to compromise and design a plan for budget reduction and revenue increase that would keep these huge automatic cuts from becoming a reality. 

The two parties’ disagreement on how to reduce the debt two years ago ultimately led to a downgrading of our national credit rating. Now that our credit rating has been brought back into the limelight, could it be downgraded again?

With the sequestration deadline looming, it is imperative that Obama take ownership of what was originally his idea and devise a strategy of reducing the federal deficit. Whether it is through tax increases, budget reduction or a combination of the two, something needs to be done, and fast.