The only thing the Republican Party has going for it right now is the hope that the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts set to take effect on Friday won’t be felt immediately by very many people:
On Sunday, the White House released 51 fact sheets describing the effects a sequester would have on every state and the District of Columbia.
Republicans have questioned whether the nation would feel the cuts as much as the Obama administration suggests. They’re essentially gambling that the public outcry will be slight, giving them leverage to call for more spending reductions during the months ahead.
Democrats, on the other hand, know that a public backlash could bolster their cause to replace the sequester with increased tax revenue and more discriminate cuts. GOP leaders have said they won’t accept a proposal with new revenue after they already agreed to more taxes under the Jan. 1 deal to avert the fiscal cliff. A White House budget official last week acknowledged that the impacts of the sequester will “get worse over time” but that “the pain points are there,” according to an article in Sunday’s Washington Post.
Democrats wouldn’t have much time for the public to grow weary of the cuts. Another big budget battle looms next month, with lawmakers required to approve a new spending plan before Congress’s last short-term funding measure expires on March 27. Failure to pass a new budget — or at least another temporary plan — before that deadline would result in a government shutdown.
Congress could stop the sequestration cuts with an alternate plan, a compromise by both parties. Republicans could agree to close tax loopholes for the wealthy as a source of income and a more balanced approach to deficit reduction. Austerity hasn’t worked in Europe and it won’t work for us. But without a public outcry, it just doesn’t appear that the teaparty wing of the GOP has any reason to consider a compromise.
And even if there were a public outcry, it would have to come from these members’ own deep-red districts which elected them to office in the first place. Many of these “Republican” congressmen have no interest in what’s good for the entire nation or what ‘most’ people wanted or voted for in 2012. They’re in Congress to collect a paycheck and get re-elected (worst, most do-nothingest, congress in history). Republicans seem to feel pretty confident that there will be no political repercussions now or later if the sequester kicks in. They’re partly right — for now, not a lot of people are paying attention to the landslide of terrible that’s set to begin rolling on Friday. But Democrats think that will change sooner rather than later:
Administration officials insist the pain will be immediate and acute. Though furloughs of federal workers won’t begin in earnest until April, notices could begin rolling out before the March 1 deadline. On Friday, cash-strapped governors and mayors will be notified of cuts to social-service grants and reductions in education funding that will impact the coming school year. And actual federal payouts will decline immediately for at least two programs: Emergency unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed and nutrition assistance for women, infants and children, known as WIC.
“We have a very diverse parade of horribles,” said a top White House budget official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss implementation plans. “It’s going to be all over the map . . . and it’s going to hit both Democratic and Republican constituencies in a significant way.”
[...] Scott Lilly, a budget expert at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank says, “I think Social Security will have to close a lot of offices. And the ones that make sense to close are the ones in the smallest communities. Which, by the way, happen to be predominantly Republican.” While Social Security benefits are protected, Lilly said, “the White House would be advantaged to let people know that they’re going to have to drive 40 miles to put in their application or get information about their benefits.”
Maybe when the federal government has to cut back on the programs and services that the WeThePeople-Real-’Merican crowd holds sacred (and stops handing out Scooter Chairs like candy) the Republican Party will finally feel some pressure to “work” on an alternative, and maybe they’ll be less inclined to blow off the other half of the country. Time (and individual congressional district suffering) will tell.