David Hogberg of the conservative National Center for Public Policy Research has an interesting take on the sequester. He argues that we may actually start seeing more of them in the future. Why? Because they allow lawmakers to cut the size of government to deal with the deficit without having to take grief from the constituencies that favor higher spending:
A sequester helps politicians avoid that problem. With a sequester, politicians pass a set of spending cuts that occur at some point in the future unless they can come up with some other agreement. If they don’t reach that agreement, they can blame each other for the resulting cuts.
And have they ever been doing just that! President Obama says the sequester was congressional Republicans’ idea, while the GOP says it was his. If you believe Bob Woodward, it was originally President Obama’s idea. But whose idea it was is not that relevant to the question of who is responsible since congressional Republicans passed the sequester and President Obama signed it. Clearly, both sides are responsible.
And that, sad to say, is the cynical genius of the sequester. Both sides can say the other side is to blame. Both sides can say they had a better plan to put in place of the sequester, but the other side just wouldn’t agree to it (something else they have been doing plenty of). Voters will likely have a hard time sorting it out, which means they’ll have a hard time knowing which politicians to hold responsible. Voters who can’t figure out who is at fault are less likely to blame their Representative or Senator—thus, a sequester is less politically damaging.
As long as politicians have to cut spending, they’ll reach for the method that enables them to take the least amount of responsibility. Until someone comes up with a better method, sequester fits the bill.