Thursday, August 4, 2011

The automatic cuts -- new hostages

Do Democrats think they can finally win a round in the fight over the Bush tax cuts by adapting for themselves the hostage taking tactic used against them by the Tea Party Republicans? Apparently they do. Here, according to a Reuters report, is the plan:
Democrats say they will use the threat of automatic defense cuts to prod Republicans to accept tax increases as part of the $1.5 trillion debt-reduction deal -- or charge they would rather protect the rich than the military.

"In the coming months, our Republican colleagues will be given the following test: Will they choose to protect special- interest tax breaks over investments necessary to keep our nation strong and secure?," said Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Budget Committee and former head of the party’s House campaign arm. "Let’s get on with that big national debate."
I am not sure exactly how many flaws there are in this plan but the main one is that it is being deployed against a group unlikely to surrender to hostage takers. Republicans will be more justified than they were in the case of the debt financing deadline in believing that disaster is not imminent. Military spending cuts can be endured for a time -- at least for as long as it will take them to pass a budget preserving the tax cuts and restored military spending as well. Indeed, I fully expect that they will even get some bonus boosts in the military budget to make up for whatever ground they see as having been lost through delay.

The automatic cuts in the debt limit ransom package weigh on domestic civilian spending as much as on the Pentagon and, besides, the Democrats are nearly as hawkish as the Republicans and would be highly vulnerable to charges that they are betraying the troops. The Obama Administration will be open to accusations that it is implementing the military cuts in ways that causes unnecessary damage and may be doing it purposely. How can the Democrats seriously believe they would have a superior bargaining position? Their position will actually be weaker than it was in the debt limit face off where they might have, if they weren't so pathetic, have gained an upper hand with a serious 14th amendment threat.

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