The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Politics

January 26, 2013

Political Notebook: GOP shifts focus to 'sequester'

(Continued)

Moreover, policies like the sequester rarely survive for very long. "The truth is we have a very weak record of things like the sequester actually coming to pass," says Doug Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum and the top economic adviser to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. "In the end, the Budget Control Act" — the legislation that created the sequester — "is built on discretionary spending caps. They're violated more than they're adhered to."

This is the kind of perverse policy outcome that's the consequence of the GOP's no-tax pledge. They could get a deal from the Obama administration that would cut Medicare and Social Security and all the other spending Republicans want to reduce if they would also raise taxes. And they wouldn't even have to raise tax rates — they could just get rid of loopholes and tax breaks in the code. Instead, they are threatening to cut the spending they care most deeply about, using an unreliable mechanism that was designed to be so objectionable that they would never let it become law.

But this is the corner they have backed themselves into. Having lost an election and having tied themselves to a no-tax pledge, they're so desperate for leverage, so desperate for a hostage they can actually shoot, that they are willing to point the gun at their own head and threaten to pull the trigger.

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