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Obama is the worst President the US has ever had, but like Clinton, he’s a skilled political player. When negotiating the debt ceiling deal, he snookered Republicans into choosing between tax hikes an defense cuts, knowing full well that conservative Republicans hate both.
The debt ceiling deal obligates the DOD and other nat-sec-related agencies to cut their budgets by a collective 350 bn bucks over the next decade, i.e. 35 bn bucks a year, on average. It also calls for a congressional committee of 12 people to come up with savings of no less than 1.5 trillion dollars over a decade, and make its recommendations no later than on November 23rd. If the committee (which will be working behind closed doors) fails to meet that deadline, recommends less in cuts than 1.5 trillion dollars over a decade, or the Congress rejects its recommendations, sequesters will automatically kick in and cut defense spending (not including GWOT spending) by over 600 bn, forcing the DOD to bear a full 50% of the burden of the budget cuts the sequesters will make.
Thus, Obama has masterfully snookered Republicans into choosing between defense cuts and tax hikes. (He and Congressional Democrats support both.)
Republicans will have to choose between tax hikes, which will anger the fiscally conservative wing of the party, and defense cuts, which will alienate the defense wing of the party.
They will have to make that choice during one of the two stages of the deficit reduction process.
The first stage will be the committee stage. The Democrats who sit on that Committee will demand defense cuts or tax hikes. Republicans will have to choose one of them; the Dems will agree to a deal only if one or the other option is chosen.
Then, the Congress will have to accept the committee’s recommendations in their entirety or trigger the sequesters.
What the Congress will do will depend on what deal the committee produces.
Remember, President Obama has forced Republicans to choose between either tax hikes or defense cuts. As James Antle has noted in the latest edition of the American Conservative mag, Grover Norquist, who has 234 Congressmen and 40 Senators signed up to his no-tax-hike-pledge, has made it clear which option he prefers.
If the deal will contain tax hikes instead of (or together with) defense cuts, Congressional Republicans, fearing Grover Norquist and minions, will reject it. They will not risk prompting him to say “Republicans have violated the pledge!”, primary challenges, the loss of donations from the GOP’s whale donors, and alienating the fiscally conservative wing of the party.
If Republicans reject the Committee’s proposals, they will trigger sequesters which will gut America’s defense.
If the deal will contain defense cuts instead of tax hikes, Grover Norquist and his minions will be pleased and will not protest. Neither will the fiscally conservative wing of the GOP. Neither will the Democrats. The defense wing of the GOP may protest, but it has always been ignored during the last 22 years, and indeed, during the last 2 years or so, fiscal conservatives and libertarians have been trying to expel defense conservatives from the GOP.
Of course, a deal containing massive defense cuts will harm the GOP in a certain way. It will alienate many Republican voters (including many Tea Partiers, because only 27% of Tea Partiers support defense cuts) and will utterly and irreversibly discredit the GOP. The party has long been regarded (although wrongly so) as the party of a strong defense. It will never again be regarded as such if it agrees to further defense cuts on top of all of those already administered.
But Republicans don’t care about the party’s reputation. They only care about getting reelected and receiving donations. They don’t want to risk the wrath of Grover Norquist. Nor do they want to anger the fiscally conservative wing of the party.
So they will not agree to any tax hikes, and will instead agree to massive defense cuts. As stated above, that is something that fiscal conservatives AND Democrats will gladly accept.
The Democrats have already stated that for them, cutting defense spending is a higher priority than raising taxes, although they want to accomplish both goals.
So Obama has masterfully tricked Republicans: he has forced them to choose between tax hikes and defense cuts, knowing that they hate both. And it is clear which option will Republicans choose.
Big defense cuts are coming. The only question is how big exactly will they be, and how will they be imposed – whether through a deal or through a sequester.