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Friday, March 01, 2013

Sequestration, the March Hare, and the Mad Tea Party

March Hare graffiti
It's Sequester Day, America. The worst holiday so far this year. Still, we should make the best of it. Other special days have mascots -- Santa Claus, pilgrims, Jack-O'-Lanterns, etc. -- so I propose that Sequester Day be celebrated under the lunatic grin of the March Hare. The mascot is pretty perfect; a participant in the Mad Tea Party, completely insane, and -- of course -- it's March.

You see, there's nothing sane about any of this. The last time we celebrated this holiday was not a year ago, but just back in January, when it was known by a different name: the fiscal cliff. We went over the cliff a little bit, Republicans lost their nerve, and the crisis was avoided... Well, not avoided so much as kicked down the road until today. The crisis was very much not avoided, as the mad March Hare reminds us. We merely banned the nickname "fiscal cliff" from our national vocabulary, cut some deals to reschedule the whole thing, and now we refer to it by it's more formal name, sequestration. It the same stupid self-laid trap, we've just all agreed to pretend it's a new one. It's mad, mad I say -- frantabulousy, craptastically, thingdubitably, deliciously mad!

And no one better embodies the true spirit of the March Hare better than the House Republican caucus. Left is right, up is down, right is wrong, and Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

CBS News:

...House Speaker John Boehner has said he's done negotiating. The House, Boehner says, has twice passed legislation that would undo the sequester, and should not have pass a third bill before the Democrat-controlled Senate "gets off their ass and passes it once." He has also stated that Republicans will not play ball on new tax revenue, telling the president, "You got your tax increase; it's time to cut spending here in Washington."


In a statement this morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., added: "We promised the American people that we would cut Washington spending, and the President signed those cuts into law. Republicans have offered the President numerous solutions, including the flexibility he needs to secure those reductions more intelligently. I'm happy to discuss other ideas to keep our commitment to reducing Washington spending at today's meeting. But there will be no last-minute, back-room deal and absolutely no agreement to increase taxes."

Yes, Barack Obama got his one tax increase (well, part of one anyway), Republicans have gotten spending cut after spending cut, so it only makes Mad Tea Party sense that it's now Obama's turn to give things away again. Because the opposite of truth is Tea Party sense; which means the opposite of parity is a fair deal. Barack Obama gets his one lump of sugar, then Republicans get a pile of sugar lumps -- and that means it's Republicans turn to get their sugar again. Because Mad Tea Party reasoning, if you'll remember your Lewis Carroll, is backwards, contrary, and splendidly wrong.

Under that definition, cutting spending to plug a deficit hole makes perfect Tea Party sense, as reality reminds us. Dylan Matthews of Washington Post's Wonkblog illustrates that reality -- by way of a familiar chart, now updated:

Chart showing Bush tax cuts as largest and most obvious driver of deficits

As you can see, that big, fat sandy-colored stripe is the biggest culprit in driving deficits. And that big stripe represents the Bush tax cuts. Washington doesn't have a spending problem, Washington obviously has a revenue problem. But recognizing that is not playing by the mad Tea Party rules and the March Hare will have none of it. President Obama was reelected on a promise to raise taxes on the wealthy? Pshaw and fiddlesticks!

It's so much more fun to be mad!


[photo via Newtown grafitti]

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