He STILL Owns It
"I Don't Mind A Parasite. I Object To A Cut-Rate One."
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I read a really good article yesterday about our current "sequestration" problem, which outlines what I believe is necessary to move us "FORWARD" (as the Democrats campaign slogan said). The article is written by Ron Fournier, a national political journalist and author currently working for The National Journal. Fournier's background includes serving as the Washington Bureau Chief for The Associated Press and a Harvard Institute of Politics fellowship. He won the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Award for coverage of the 2000 U.S. presidential election, and is a three-time winner of the White House Correspondents' Association Merriman Smith award.

Fournier's op-ed piece is titled: "You May Be Right, Mr. President, But This Is Crazy," and is dated February 20, 2013. Here it is in its entirety:

"You May Be Right, Mr. President, But This Is Crazy

As the nation's chief executive, Obama is ultimately accountable for the budget fiasco, even if he is right on the merits and politics.

Your federal government is almost certain to blow past the March 1 deadline for averting $1.2 trillion in haphazard budget cuts that could cost 700,000 jobs. Don’t worry. We know whom to blame. President Obama makes a credible case that he has reached farther toward compromise than House Republicans.

But knowing who’s at fault doesn’t fix the problem. To loosely quote Billy Joel: You may be right, Mr. President, but this is crazy.

Is this fiscal standoff (the fifth since Republicans took control of the House in 2011) just about scoring political points, or is it about governing?

If it’s all about politics, bully for Obama. A majority of voters will likely side with the president over Republicans in a budget dispute because of his popularity and the GOP’s pathetic approval ratings.

If it’s about governing, the story changes: In any enterprise, the chief executive is ultimately accountable for success and failure. Sure, blame Congress — castigate all 535 lawmakers, or the roughly half you hate. But there is only one president. Even if he’s right on the merits, Obama may be on the wrong side of history.

Fair or not, the president owns this mess. What can he do about it? For starters, he could read this op-ed piece published two months ago in a Midwestern newspaper. With a few tweaks, Obama could make it a presidential address. The author, whose identity I will disclose later, laid out a case for the then-looming “fiscal cliff.” It is still applicable, even powerful. (The op-ed excerpts are preceded and followed by --" and "--)

--"Americans are fed up with the jousting.… There is a lot of public posturing but apparently not much genuine conversation."--

White House officials and liberal commentators will push back: They say it is naïve if not outright stupid to think that Republicans want to talk to Obama, or that conversations would do any good. I contend it’s not any smarter to believe that the president’s agenda will be passed without breaking gridlock, or that Washington is the only place where two wrongs make you right. Somebody has to be the grownup here. Let it be the president.

--"Here’s the reality: When facing a $16 trillion debt and spending 32 percent more money each year than we take in, revenue must go up and spending must go down. There are no other choices. So the debate is centered on how to collect more revenue and where to cut spending."--

It has suddenly become fashionable for Obama’s liberal allies to deny the existential threat posed by suffocating U.S. debt. They should read the president’s old speeches. Debt dismissing is irrational.

--"Neither party is without fault. Republicans must confront their own conventional wisdom that says, “The only way to shrink government is to starve it of resources.” Government has consistently grown in size and interfered with the private sector … during periods of both high and low tax rates. Spending has become completely decoupled from revenue and that’s a dangerous policy. What, in fact, has actually happened under this strategy is that both the debt and the size of government have grown and all debt is simply a future tax on the next generation … someone, someday will have to pay the bill for the debt driven spending today."--

In the last week, three senior members of the Republican Party have told me that the House GOP is making a dire mistake to think voters will consider this “the president’s sequester.” Yes, the White House proposed the gimmick, but only as a way to avert a GOP-backed debt crisis, and the House Republican leadership supported sequestration. More broadly, there is no way to seriously reduce the U.S. debt without more revenue, which means raising taxes.

--"Democrats must challenge their orthodoxy as well. While annual revenues are roughly what they were in 2006 — just a few years ago — spending has increased by $1 trillion every year since 2008.… We must recognize that even though raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans makes good politics, it does little to solve our nation’s financial crisis…. All of us receive the benefits so all of us must share the sacrifice — either in the form of higher taxes or lower government benefits."--

The biggest lie in politics today is that the debt can be tamed without hurting the middle class via tax hikes and entitlement cuts. Obama and his allies know better, or should, but there is no stomach in Washington for honesty.

--"Democrats have to demonstrate their willingness to put serious spending reductions on the table and Republicans need to offer a pro-growth, pro-job agenda that includes revenue. Most importantly both sides need to lay down their swords and act like the problem solvers the American people deserve and expect."--

The op-ed was published in the Green Bay Press-Gazette and was written by Rep. Reid Ribble, a Republican from Wisconsin. Ribble represents one of the few House districts still divided almost equally between Republican and Democratic voters. Many of the rest are gerrymandered, drawn to easily elect a hyper-partisan conservative or liberal. It is one cause of gridlock, what voters loathe about Washington.

I wonder what would happen if Obama were to deliver such an address. Would voters reward him for the honesty of the argument and the courage of challenging his liberal base? Would he change the tone of the debate from mindless sniping to an environment in which leaders are publicly shamed if they offer no solutions?

I may be wrong. I may be crazy. But I suspect we’ll never know."

See: http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/you-may-be-right-mr-president-but-this-is-crazy-20130220

Taxes must go up. Entitlements must go down. No other way. If it doesn't happen, we ALL lose.

Latest Activity: Feb 21, 2013 at 11:15 AM

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JimmyMack commented on Thursday, Feb 21, 2013 at 16:45 PM

Nice Blog Sebe. Lots of info to shed light on whom to blame. When I was at B.I. and took Government under Ms. Avis Wisner (now deceased) she told us that "the American people usually blame the President when things go wrong." Course back then we lived in a world that was not as politically poloarized as it is now. Anyway, Ms. Wisner was right to a point. The President is ONE while Congress is 535. We also now live in much more informed world where news is 24-7 and we see things actually make history as they happen via the Tube and Internet. The country is more informed then it ever was and I believe that History will show this forthcoming economic debacle when viewed sans prism lens, that "many" were to blame.

Sure, we can 'blame' Obama all we want. But doing that and 75 cents won't buy you a cup of coffee.

Congress' 'approval' rating is just a little above Charles Manson's right now. I think Americans can see where the wheels came off of this baby and it is reflected in these polls.

I really blame, if we are going to play the blame thing, Right Wing Talk Radio that somehow lent a twisted legitimacy to establishing a viral, politically polarizing climate that ended civility in contested matters of state. Hence 'movements' like the uncompromising Tea Partiers came into existence.

But, again, that and some quarters isn't gonna solve nothing nor buy me my jolt of caffiene.

So, I guess what I am saying is that there will be plenty to 'blame' for this. I just believe that History will make note of this economic fiasco, but they will see it thru a well-informed view point, and realize that 535 hands on deck with water buckets could have done more to help put out the fire rather than just One big bucket.

sebekm commented on Thursday, Feb 21, 2013 at 17:23 PM

Hi Jimmy: The point of the article (I think) is not who gets the blame but who now has to LEAD. As you may recall, I've been saying this for most of the Obama administration. It was on Harry Truman's desk: The Buck Stops Here.

The President can't dodge the responsibility - and by extension any "blame" - if he fails to LEAD the country. It is not up to Congress to lead when it comes to the federal government. That's why the President heads the Executive Branch, and why he is responsible for making things happen.

Mr. Obama can't sit back and point fingers when he isn't making things happen. That's his job. That's what the American people elected him to do. Fournier "echoed" my prior comments (which is obviously why I used his article to make the point):

"Fair or not, the president owns this mess."

He can't blame Congress, the Republicans, or Bush if HE fails to clean it up. That's why he gets the big bucks, and that's why they say it's lonely at the top.

sebekm commented on Thursday, Feb 21, 2013 at 19:21 PM

....also - per the above - note who came up the idea of the "sequester" in the first place: THE WHITE HOUSE!!! Last time I checked, the principal occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is none other than Barack H. Obama. IMHO - if he in fact maneuvered the sequester, THAT is leadership. But if so, I'd also like to see him take credit (i.e. "ownership") of it, rather than "choosing to hide" the fact like some anonymous blogger. He should proclaim it from the highest mountaintop, especially now that he has the "flexibility" of not facing re-election.

JimmyMack commented on Friday, Feb 22, 2013 at 10:15 AM

Hi Sebe. I will admit for historical purposes that this train wreck happened while BHO was in office. However, the contributors to this crash and burn that is about to happen are many. Whether its politcally correct or not to no longer point any fingets toward The Boy King, W, it must be noted that it was he that plunged us into an unneccesary deficit spending budget busting unjustified war in Iraq. W. accelerated the crash and burn mode we are in.

As noted above BHO and Boehner HAD a tentative agreement where BHO moved off his 250K tax increase to 400K along with some moderate cuts in benefits. Boehner took it back to the House where the un-compromising lunatic fringe Tea Partiers in the Republican party squashed the proposal and Boehner.

Being a betting person from time to time...I bet that all this hoopla about BHO "owning it" will not be preceived as such by the masses. I am putting my nickle on the public's correct perception that BHO could not deal with a hard-line uncompromising Congress. And it will be that body of governance that will take the hit for the Sequestration happening.

sebekm commented on Friday, Feb 22, 2013 at 11:29 AM

It's not perception - it's reality. He's STILL in office and ONLY HE has the responsibility to lead. Can't blame Bush for it not being fixed; can't blame any other President for it not being fixed. OBAMA is President and OBAMA must fix. That's the point of the "ownership."

Anything else is the "blame game." Historical perspective will judge him on how well he fixed the problem (or got it on the road to being inevitably fixed). If it's NOT fixed and we have to be "austere" like Greece, France, etc., then the historical perspective will be that he blew the opportunity to FIX the problem when he had the chance.

In 20-30-40 years, when historical perspective kicks in, it won't be the people who swelled the food stamp rolls or got free cell phones or who bought the demonization of the Republicans that will provide the historical perspective and will write (revise?) the history books. It will be people who are a generation or two removed from the immediate problem, and who ostensibly will view the FACTS through a clearer lens. This is much the same as the historical perspective that evolved on Abraham Lincoln as years went by. While in office, he was a homely, ignorant dunderhead who was the "worst president ever." Now he's the greatest. What changed? His actions didn't - the "historical perspective" did.

I believe Mr. Obama knows this - and he knows it is in his best interests to FIX THIS PROBLEM.

After all - he STILL owns it.

sebekm commented on Friday, Feb 22, 2013 at 11:40 AM

...and the mainstream media and Mr. Obama's supporters continue to forget that one of his many promises was to CUT THE FEDERAL DEFICIT IN HALF by the end of his first term. Instead, he essentially compounded the problem with ObamaCare and other big spending projects like the so-called "stimulus" (which thus far has stimulated very little) and the various bail-outs.

See: http://www.politifact.com/florida/sta...

Mr. Obama has gotten rid of a lot of his first-term advisors (especially Geithner). Hopefully, the ones that left were the fools who told him that it would be possible to spend our way out of debt.

JimmyMack commented on Friday, Feb 22, 2013 at 12:36 PM

Yep, he did promise it...they ALL make promises don't they? Even nebulous who knows what this means promises like "compassionate conservatism!!!" We went to an unnecessay budget busting war with that one didn't we???

However, I do not think anybody, including BHO, expected the degree of virulence that would be hurled at him from the right. I have written about this before on Blogs: Melanin Problem being one of them. When you have Republican Representatives coming to the well of the House and saying they were "committed to making sure that Obama would be a ONE TERM President" how can you expect ANY cooperation much less COMPROMISE??! I do not need to point out that BHO WON a Second Term, so what's up with that?

There is an old saying that applies to the political situation that BHO now finds himself, and it is the age old saying: You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.

I think that old saying is very appropo concerning Obama's leadership and Congress' refusing to move one bit.

They had a deal(BHO-Boehner) but the sheer anti-Obama virulence centered in the hard right Tea Partiers stopped it from happening.

sebekm commented on Friday, Feb 22, 2013 at 12:39 PM

But he STILL owns it.

sebekm commented on Friday, Feb 22, 2013 at 12:57 PM

...and as for virulence, Bush is STILL getting it from the left after being labeled an ignorant slacker who cheated on his military service; possessed the lowest I.Q.of any U.S. President; and who STOLE the 2000 election. For the past four years, he has been the Devil-Incarnate-in-Retrospect - being specifically tagged by the left for everything from causing the federal deficit to global warming to the failure of scientists to locate Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster.

But these "who's worse" arguments neither solve nor decide anything. The problems exist NOW. Mr. Obama is President NOW. It's HIS performance and HIS job that matters now.

And he STILL owns it.

JimmyMack commented on Friday, Feb 22, 2013 at 13:13 PM

sebe brother, it is starting to look like that two of us may be getting to the point as to asking "what the definition of is, is?" on this one.

Yea. BHO IS President. He IS in the Oval Office. And, most importantly he IS dealing with a intransigent Congress as this economic melt down occurs.

Funkentelecky commented on Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 at 17:30 PM

Great debate, JimmyMack vs. sebekm

Before I interject I would like everyone to be reminded of the old adage “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” This is true and one of the reasons we have patriots who love this country and are passionate with different ideas and in many cases not having all the information or even not enough to have the most informed opinion. That’s why I make sure that I watch some MSNBC Heehaw, CNN, Fox News and some talk radio left and right. Finally some targeted internet searches to verify the information you have discovered will lead you to who’s fooling who.

John Boehner has been the most balanced in leadership so far since the tax increase debate, sequestration and the looming debt ceiling debate.

Boehner’s first offer to the President after he won re-election was to compromise by not raising tax rates on anyone and he proposed more revenue through eliminating loopholes and deductions for millionaires and billionaires culminating in 800B of new revenue. The President turned down the offer and stayed on raising taxes at 250K. See Boehner’s offer here:


Boehner offered to raise taxes on Americans making 1M a year and the Whitehouse countered at 400K and eventually settled on 450K which would bring in around 600B. See the Boehner’s offer here:


The Tea Party Republicans were for no tax increases through rates, tax loopholes and deductions and their isn’t enough of them to stop bipartisan legislation to pass as witnessed by the 450K threshold tax hike passed by Congress and signed by the President to set the record straight.

Now the President is out campaigning about how Republicans are holding the middle class hostage for not agreeing to legislation for revenue through loopholes and deductions and also letting sequestration happen which actually started in the Whitehouse.

The President is not showing leadership and he should be talking directly Boehner and Reid to pass bipartisan legislation by triangulating the best ideas from both parties like Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich.

He Owns It Now

JimmyMack commented on Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 at 17:51 PM

HI Funk. BHO represents what we on the Left expect to see from him and He IS our duly elected President. I wouldn't cut the Tea Partiers as much slack in this fight as you have tho. They are a virulent bunch without any 'moderates' among them. Also, the Bully Pulpit comes with the office and BHO is using it as he should be doing.

All in all I guess time will tell on this one.

sebekm commented on Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 at 21:49 PM

Yes - the President must lead. No substitutes; no excuses;no whining. He has the Senate and he has his election victory. But ir he expects the opposition to just roll over for him, he better not hold his breath.

The sequester is looking better and better, no matter who gets the blame. At this point, if I were the GOP, I'd take those cuts and let the Dems justify any spending increases.

The Dems have had PLENTY of "virulence" in their day. Just google some Cynthia McKinney and Rahm Emanuel. But those comparisons are meaningless. Despite any "virulence," it is the PRESIDENT who must LEAD.

And he STILL owns the problem.

Funkentelecky commented on Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 at 23:05 PM

Hi JimmyMack, BHO was re-elected however his mandate is to reach across party lines and triangulate the best ideas of both parties because the country also voted John Boehner and the Republicans in charge of The House of Representatives and the purse strings. If BHO had a mandate to raise tax rates America would have voted them out just like they voted them in, in the 2010 midterm elections which were a mandate to stop the outrageous and unnecessary spending by BHO and the Democrats. The President got 41-1 tax hikes to spending cuts in Round 1, Round 2 let the sequester happen and Round 3 let’s get some entitlement reform during the debt ceiling deal which would keep the Presidents promise to the independents and moderates that elected him into office.

sebekm commented on Sunday, Feb 24, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Part I:

Bob Woodward wrote an op-ed piece the other day which further illuminates the sequestration issue and how it was created. Read about it here:


(Note also the word "owns" in the headline.)

The President's surrogates are scrambling in the print media and on the talk shows today to try to blunt Woodward's message. But in this argument I'll take Woodward every time. His established track record of calling 'em like he sees 'em regardless of who is in the White House tells me that if I have to choose who is telling the closest to "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," the smart money goes with WOODWARD.

Now having said that, it really doesn't make much difference at this point whose idea it was - except that I'd like to see the President and his people show some backbone and take credit for it because IMHO it is a good tactic TO CUT SPENDING and is an indication of LEADERSHIP. My hunch is that they won't, because actually cutting spending is anathema to the platform and political philosophy of the Democratic party. I repeat:

If the President had adopted all of the recommendations of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform - a commission THAT HE CREATED (Simpson-Bowles) - we wouldn't have this "crisis," and the necessary reductions in spending (and revenue increases, too) would have already have begun phasing in - at a much more moderate rate than the supposed "cold turkey" of the sequestration.

sebekm commented on Sunday, Feb 24, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Part II:

According to our friends at wikipedia.org, here's what implementation of Simpson-Bowles would have done OVER NINE YEARS:

"1. $1,661 billion (a.k.a. $1.661 trillion) of discretionary spending cuts by putting in place discretionary spending caps into law lower than what is projected to be spent.

2. $995 billion in additional revenue with $785 billion in new revenues from tax reform by lowering income and corporate tax rates and broadening the base by eliminating tax expenditures. An additional $210 billion in revenue is also raised in other revenue by switching to the Chained-CPI and an increase in the federal gasoline tax

3. $341 billion in federal health care savings by reforming the Sustainable Growth Rate for Medicare, repeals the CLASS Act (which has already happened), increase Medicare cost sharing, reform health-care tort, change provider payments, increase drug rebates and establishes a long-term budget for total federal health-care spending after 2020 to GDP + 1 percent.

4. $215 billion in other mandatory savings by moving to the Chained CPI for all inflation-indexed programs, reform the military and civil service retirement system, reduce farm subsidies, reduce student loans and various other reforms.

5. $238 billion in Social Security reform, to be used to ensure the program is sustainably solvent in the infinite horizon by slowing benefit growth for high and medium-income workers, increase the early and normal retirement age to 68 by 2050 and 69 by 2075 by indexing it to longevity, index cost of living adjustments to the Chained-CPI, include newly hired state and local workers after 2020, increase the payroll tax cap to cover 90 percent of wages by 2050 and creates a new minimum and old-age benefit.

6. Budget Process Reforms by creating discretionary spending caps and caps total federal revenue at 20 percent of GDP.

An additional $673 billion is saved due to lower projected spending interest payments as a result from lower deficits."

The Simpson-Bowles recommendations ARE STILL SITTING THERE. If our elected representatives wanted to adopt them, they still could. Simply revising the timetable from implementation between 2012-2020 to 2014-2022 would put the provisions on the same glide path to total implementation. All the work has ALREADY been done. There is no need to reinvent the wheel and further demagogue this issue. All the President has to do is LEAD. All he has to do is say: "Hey - we have the Simpson-Bowles recommendations, why not just do it?" I'll bet my bottom dollar that if he does this - coupled with some arm-twisting of his DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADERSHIP (Reid, Pelosi) to ensure that THEY get with the program - they can get it done.

JimmyMack commented on Sunday, Feb 24, 2013 at 16:15 PM

Sounds like a plan.

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