Solving the Sequester: The Facts

by Dan PfeifferSenior Advisor to the President

With less than three weeks before devastating, across the board cuts – the so-called “sequester” – are slated to hit, affecting our national security, job creation and economic growth, we must make sure we are having a debate over how to deal with these looming deadlines that is based on facts- not myths being spread by some Congressional Republicans who would rather see these cuts hit than ask the wealthiest and big corporations to pay a little bit more.

First, the notion that President Obama hasn’t put forward a solution to deal with these looming cuts is false. In the fall of 2011, the President put forward a proposal to the Supercommittee for the specific purpose of laying out his vision to resolve the sequester and reduce our deficit by over $4 trillion dollars in a balanced way- by cutting spending, finding savings in entitlement programs and asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share. That proposal would have completely turned off the sequester while further reducing our deficit and ensuring we could still invest in the things we need to grow our economy and create jobs.  That same approach was presented to Congress in the President’s budget last year.  And the President’s last offer to Speaker Boehner in December remains on the table- an offer that meets the Republicans halfway on spending and on revenues, and would permanently turn off the sequester and put us on a fiscally sustainable path.

We should have a debate over how to best reduce the deficit. But with only three weeks until these indiscriminate cuts hit, Congress should find a short term package to give themselves a little more time to find a solution to permanently turn off the sequester. That package should have balance and include spending cuts and revenues.

And over the long-term, we need to find a solution that does this in a balanced way. The President has already reduced the deficit by over $2.5 trillion, cutting spending by over $1.4 trillion. And he’s willing to do more. And we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. Even as we look for ways to reduce deficits over the long term, our core mission is to grow the economy in a way that strengthens the middle class and everyone willing to work hard to get into it.

But we are not willing to accept the “my way or the highway” approach backed by Congressional Republicans that asks the middle class and seniors to bear all the burden while the very wealthiest individuals, big corporations and oil and gas companies continue to enjoy big tax loopholes that are unavailable to middle class Americans and small businesses.

A month ago, Speaker Boehner openly told the Wall Street Journal that he planned to use threat of harm to the country posed by the sequester as “leverage” to push for a partisan, unbalanced plan:

Mr. Boehner says he has significant Republican support, including GOP defense hawks, on his side for letting the sequester do its work. “I got that in my back pocket,” the speaker says. He is counting on the president’s liberal base putting pressure on him when cherished domestic programs face the sequester’s sharp knife. Republican willingness to support the sequester, Mr. Boehner says, is “as much leverage as we’re going to get.”

If Republicans in Congress want spending cuts, there is a simple way to get them that will not imperil our economy, our national security, or vital programs that middle class families depend on: come to the table for a balanced plan that also closes loopholes for millionaires and billionaires.  The unbalanced Republican approach does not reflect our values as a nation, and would not help our economy continue the important progress we are making. It’s time for Congress to act.