Karen Ocamb

What the Hell is Sequestration & Why Is Shirking Accountability the New Norm?

Filed By Karen Ocamb | February 21, 2013 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: American economy, Congressional Republicans, government, political faceoff, President Obama

Congress is on vacation, despite the looming $1.2 trillion in cuts known as "sequestration" set to automatically take place on March 1. The sequester was supposed to be a tactic so harsh, it would force lawmakers then facing the "fiscal cliff" to stop kicking the economic can down the road and reach a bipartisan deal on how to move forward with the debt and a still weak recovery. sequestration.jpgPresident Obama called sequestration a "meat cleaver approach" yesterday, which Republicans now claim was Obama's idea all along. (Read Dan Pfeiffer's piece on the White House blog.)

(Clickety the graphic to embiggen.)

But today, John Avlon of the Daily Beast found a July 2011 PowerPoint presentation that proves the opposite. Here's an excerpt from a must-read piece:

[A]s my colleague Michael Tomasky pointed out Tuesday. Congress passed sequestration before the president signed it, and the whole self-defeating exercise was carried out in response to Tea Party Republicans' insistence that we play chicken with the debt ceiling, which ultimately cost America its AAA credit rating.

But here's the thing. I happened to come across an old email that throws cold water on House Republicans' attempts to call this "Obama's Sequester."

It's a PowerPoint presentation that [House Speaker John] Boehner's office developed with the Republican Policy Committee and sent out to the Capitol Hill GOP on July 31, 2011. Intended to explain the outline of the proposed debt deal, the presentation is titled: "Two Step Approach to Hold President Obama Accountable."

It's essentially an internal sales document from the old dealmaker Boehner to his unruly and often unreasonable Tea Party cohort. But it's clear as day in the presentation that "sequestration" was considered a cudgel to guarantee a reduction in federal spending--the conservatives' necessary condition for not having America default on its obligations.

On MSNBC Tuesday night, Washington Post Wonk Ezra Klein and economist Jared Bernstein talked about sequestration and how stupid it is to give the same percentage cut to every program across the board. (See video below).

What is so frustrating is that the sequester is becoming just another political blame game - with no accountability - just as most Americans and the administration agencies that oversee them let the Wall Street bankers get away with wrecking the economy because they are "too big to fail." Newly elected Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren underscored the point when she questioned administration officials about why no one took the bankers to court. (See video below).

Similarly, just as the Afghanistan War is supposed to end next year (though Guantanamo is still open), MSNBC's Rachel Maddow presented a documentary on Monday based on the book Hubris by investigative reporter Michael Isakoff and Mother Jones' David Corn - detailing how the Bush administration consciously lied us into the Iraq War. (See "Hubris: Selling the Iraq War") That war cost 4,488 American lives, an estimated $3.2 to $ 4 trillion in economic costs and between 111,216-121,542 documented civilian deaths - 17 more killed on Tuesday, Feb. 19 alone, even though the war is "over," as far as America is concerned. But as Maddow says, 10 years ago "we were tricked by our own government. Not into passing legislation or letting some corrupt politician off the hook who shouldn't have gotten off the hook. We were tricked into starting a full blown war. How did they full that off?"

And yet - still - no one has been held accountable. None of the Wall Street bankers has been charged with anything resembling accountability for causing what came close to a new Depression - a crisis from which we are still fighting to emerge, a crisis which the sequestration could cause all over again. And for those of us who remember being tricked into the Vietnam War by the falsely-based Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, this feels eerily familiar. But what of the legacy of Watergate, the third-rate burglary and its coverup that forced the resignation of President Nixon?

Whatever happened to accountability? When did it become OK with the American people to let elected officials and power brokers lie and get away with it? Where is the reaction from We the People? Remember what gay philosopher George Santayana said: "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it."

Rachel Maddow on the Bush administration's hubris:

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Elizabeth Warren questioning administration officials who let the Wall Street bankers off the hook:

Ezra Klein and Jared Bernstein on sequestration:

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