Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Question for Liberals

I'm curious: are there liberals out there who want to see sequestration continue because it's the best shot at cutting military spending, even though it also cuts spending on things they like? (Or to put it in the form of a proper Sunday question: is that your position?)

21 comments:

  1. No. Austerity of any sort is counterproductive and unnecessary right now and especially dumb, untargeted austerity such as sequestration.

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    1. Agreed. To the extent that military Keynesianism would be mildly stimulative, this is the time when we ought to be doing it, if ever.

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  2. I don't really mind the sequestration funding levels. If they could find a way to fund departments at lower levels with smarter (rather than across the board) cuts I would be in favor of it.

    I would also be in favor of more investment spending, targeted to where it would do some good.

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  3. So far as I can tell, the sequester and especially the things exempted from the sequester were designed by Kent Conrad. So given a choice between the budget preferences of a) the sequester, b) the median House member, or c) the best proposal Harry Reid can cobble together that will get fifty votes, I'd choose the sequester as the best option.

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  4. I'm genuinely curious what the GOP's higher preference is: preventing any increase in taxes or preventing the resumption of significant economic growth through state investment spending. I think they may be more deeply worried about the latter because it would earn the Democrats more enduring political legitimacy in the wake of the financial crisis.

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  5. It is immoral as well as ignorant to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.

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  6. No. The sequester in one of the worst ideas of the century - which has been rife with really horrible ideas.

    Austerity is dramatically counter-productive.

    JzB

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  7. The only good thing to say about the sequester is that as long as the Republicans control the House any alternative would probably be even worse.

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  8. I'm for it, in the absence of better options. But I consider cutting military spending to be a high priority.

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  9. No, I'd prefer to get rid of the sequester.

    However I do think that full-sequester relief shouldn't be considered a concession to Democrats.

    I think liberals should be talking more about sequester relief for non-defense areas of the budget.

    If there's some deal, have the Democrats give something in return for Republicans taking off the sequester on Democratic priorities. Don't have Democrats give Republicans something that both sides want.

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    1. In a perfect world, we would negotiate for what we want and they would negotiate for what they want. We don't live in that world, unfortunately.

      What would help would be if the Republicans articulated a real set of priorities that they want to promote and stand behind. Their goal is to bait Democrats into cutting entitlements so they can beat us over the head with them in the next election.

      Nonetheless, the sequester is needlessly cruel. So we need to deal. But I'm with SNF that we shouldn't give up something both sides think is important.

      Today, everybody knows Obama wants a deal. Let them put their goals up first, front and center. Don't do their work for them by offering something they want.

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  10. Yes, count me as a liberal that likes the defense cuts enough so I don't mind the sequester too much.

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  11. As always, the victims of bad policy don't have much of a political voice. Think poor kids who can't get a Headstart slot. The sequester is causing real suffering, but its just not visible to better-off people. I think accepting this suffering is immoral, no matter what other policy goals may be achieved.

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    1. Agreed. These discussions often remind me of my favorite quote from Harry Hopkins in FDR days: "People don't eat in the long run. They eat every day."

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    2. Defense spending causes real suffering too, it's just not visible to people living outside war zones.

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  12. I'm so glad you asked! Yes. Absolutely...Conservatives (and Obama) are right to be worried about our debt and deficit problems. (Although conservatives will gladly forget that as soon as tax increases are broached, but no matter.) Now that the worst of the recession is over, I'd rather see slower growth for a more fiscally sound spending policy. And I know this means that some folks will suffer more in the short term, but our debt-to-GDP ratio looks unsustainable to me, and that would mean more suffering in the long-term. Plus, my suspicion is that most government (or business) bureaucracies could stand to trim some fat. Plus, our defense spending is ridiculously wasteful and excessive.

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  13. Given the refusal of the party of NO! to accept revenue increases, the sequester is about the only way to cut defense spending.

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  14. Can't think of a single good thing about sequestration. A stunning miscalculation of Tea Party ideology by the Obama administration.

    As a liberal, cutting military spending has never really been very high on my list anyway. Yeah, it'd be nice, and smart, but there are so many other things that are WAY more important.

    Austerity - WTF is the point???

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  15. As a Keynesian, sequestration is awful. Obviously not my ideal policy. But should it be replaced no matter what?

    Probably not. The beginning of making your peace with the sequester is realizing that half the cuts come from defense. Speaking for myself, I think a lot of the defense budget suffers from bloat, and no one's made a persuasive case to me that these cuts will result in real harms to our ability to defend ourselves. Given our extremely high defense spending, it seems probable to me that we're getting low return on every extra defense dollar spent, so cutting down is actually a win. Would I want it to happen now? Again, no. But just reinstituting those defense dollars entirely...also not a good option.

    On the domestic side, payments to the elderly and the poor are not subject to sequestration. But you do get severe cuts to everything else, and yeah there's a pretty good case there is real harm here.

    But, and I hope people don't revoke my liberal card here, Will Wilkinson did make a plausible case that, though a blunt instrument, the sequester is forcing agencies to cut fat and force efficiencies. Again, is this my ideal path to greater efficiency in our regulatory state? Not really. But I think it's hard to make the case that there is no waste in government.

    So on the defense side, we get a lot of cuts for probably little harm. On the domestic side, our arguably most important spending is spared while there is real harm from the other cuts spread out over the agencies. 2013 is a terrible time for all this, controlling spending should not be as big a priority as increasing growth...but the cuts are something I can live with.

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    1. Just to clarify: large-scale transfer payments weren't subject to sequestration. There were programs for the poor that have been affected, with serious harms, like rental assistance to the poor.

      Also in the Wilkinson piece I alluded to above, there's a shout-out to balanced budget amendments that I definitely do not endorse.

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