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Ezra Klein presents the White House talking point that the defense spending triggered spending cuts are a real stick in the mini-Catfood Commission bargaining:

What it includes instead are massive cuts to the defense budget. If Congress doesn’t pass a second round of deficit reduction, the trigger cuts $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Fully half of that comes from defense spending. And note that I didn’t say “security spending.” The Pentagon takes the full hit if the trigger goes off. [. . .] Whether you think the trigger will work depends on whether you think the GOP would permit that level of cuts to defense.

Ezra rightly dismisses the WH spin that revenue increases are in fact on the table. They aren't. (Ezra makes the more plausible case that the Bush tax cuts expiring is the real revenue trigger.) That said, cutting defense spending via an automatic trigger is meaningless when you consider the Congress can reverse those automatic cuts through separate legislation. Which they almost certainly would. Indeed, they could easily use President Obama's own words:

President Barack Obama believes cutting defense spending by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, as suggested by the Simpson-Bowles Commission, goes too far for a country still at war. "There were aspects of Bowles-Simpson that I said from very early on were not the approach I would take," Obama told reporters July 15. "On defense spending, a huge amount of their savings on the discretionary side came out of defense spending. I think we need to cut defense, but as commander in chief, I've got to make sure that we're cutting it in a way that recognizes we're still in the middle of a war, we're winding down another war, and we've got a whole bunch of veterans that we've got to care for as they come home."

Given these statements from the President, it is impossible to believe that he would or could oppose a stand alone bill that would reverse the automatic triggered cuts to defense spending.

Imagine the automatic trigger date looming after the mini-Catfood Commission fails. Then imagine a bill sailing through the House restoring the defense spending. Do you see the Senate stopping it? The President? I don't.

There is a benefit to this structure - the amount of cuts will be smaller than advertised - about a trillion less by my reckoning. And that's not nothing. But as leverage to make a bargain on tax increases? No way, no how.

NOTE - I am assuming this provision survives bargaining today, something I am not at all sure of.

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Comment Preferences

  •  More on the Defense Cuts (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Armando, tardis10, ohmyheck, Hedwig

    That may not be the defense cuts we are expecting:

  •  maybe I'm missing something (6+ / 0-)

    But woudn't one little casus belli scuttle this anyway? All we need is for some region to blow up and suddenly there's a new defense appropriations bill with new spending on the table. Easy to see that happening. Indeed when has it not happened?

    Am I just being too simplistic and not understanding?

  •  Obama has no credibility (5+ / 0-)

    He folds like a nomad's tent.

    He clearly can be forceful if he chooses, but he intentionally follows the corporate Republican path.

    Obama is misleading us.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 05:58:13 AM PDT

  •  Once you establish a pattern (5+ / 0-)

    of giving in to extortion, you encourage the next extortion.

    Now the WH is saying they would vetor an extension of Bush tax cuts for the rich (except it won't be that way and he'll reluctantly refuse to veto an extension on all).

    This shows the bankruptcy of reform and electoral politics.

    The American people must wise up and rise up!

    by TomP on Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 05:59:56 AM PDT

    •  I disagree on the Bush tax cuts. (0+ / 0-)

      I think that if you watched Obama's attempted strategy in 2010, it was clear (to me at least) that before the election, Obama felt a fight over limiting the extension to below-$250,000 would be beneficial for the Democrats, but Congressional Democrats didn't want to hold a vote before the election.  Then in December, they had a dramatically weakened bargaining position because they would have gotten an even worse offer as of January 3 and had other things they wanted to do in the lame duck.  And even then, Obama refused to agree to a permanent extension.  (As you have said in the past, Obama does have certain red lines; a permanent extension, at least without getting something very good for it, it one of them.)

      This time, when the focus is on whether Obama can win re-election and there are fewer Blue Dogs to influence the Congressional leadership, I don't see why Obama would give in on the tax-cut issue in the runup to the 2012 elections.  if the Republicans propose the extension as all-or-nothing, which I agree with you they probably will, then Obama will be saying to the voters, please give me a Democratic House and re-elect me if you want the wealthy to pay their fair share, and then we'll get the tax cuts for everyone other than the rich extended in January 2013.

      Electoral politics are, in fact, crucial here.  The Bush tax cuts will not get permanently extended for the wealthy if we re-elect Obama and elect a Democratic House in 2012; they will if Obama is defeated, and if he is re-elected but the Republican House majority holds onto its power, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy will remain an open issue.

  •  Of course no military cuts, and no revenues (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sydserious, Armando, ohmyheck

    Why in the world wouldn't the Republicans just keep introducing legislation for more cuts?  They know full well the President and the Democrats will capitulate on everything, as long as they have hostages.

    Here's another thing about the commission.  It won't be about "raising" revenues, it'll be about "tax reform".  You can read that as, first we're going to cut tax rates for corporations and the rich, then we're going to postpone closing any loopholes.  Yep, we're on the way for even more tax cuts for the wealthy.  Obama is playing into the hands of Starve the Beast, and soon we'll have the real cuts to entitlements.

    You ain't seen nothin yet!

  •  If the language is equally strong on the civil... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...and military sides then all of this talk of the illusory nature of the defense cuts is oddly reassuring, since it suggests the cuts on the civilian side can be illusory as well.

    I'll Rochambeau you for it.

    by Rich in PA on Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 06:07:03 AM PDT

  •  Has this text been read by all the (0+ / 0-)

    people who wrote or published something this morning?

    Is there anything in it that wasn't known yet?

    •  I don't know (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      stevej, ohmyheck

      Have you read it? do you have some insights to share?

      •  oh no, it's way over my capabilities (0+ / 0-)

        to read it (timewise) and to understand it and its implications. That's why I try to catch something from here.

        I am sorry to have asked, hopefully it didn't bother you too much.

        I just was confused as it came out only this night at 1:45 am, but its content was discussed everywhere, I just wanted to know which sources most people had used before.

    •  It looks like (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brian B

      We have a built in hostage taking measure with the first $900 billion ceiling raise. $500 billion is subject to the first disapproval vote. Thus, unless Republicans get some "guarantees" on what will be in the legislation that comes out of the Chainsaw 12 commission they can limit the President to $400 billion and we will be right back to where we are now in perhaps January/February at the latest.

      Of course, then the whole thing coming out of the Chainsaw 12 has to be passed or the next $1.2 trillion (or $1.5 trillion if the Balanced Budget Amendment is passed by both houses of Congress and has been recorded with the Archivist as being sent to the states) won't happen either and even then, there is the disapproval vote on increasing the ceiling there as well - so another hostage taking event. And if it were all to fail then at best the President has $900 billion and somewhere around Convention time next year we repeat this whole fiasco in the midst of the final campaign leg.

      I can't imagine that in any of the votes there will be any more than the minimum required Republican votes to pass.  That is, all of the cut legislation will require the vast majority of yes votes to come from Democrats.

      This legislation should be retitled as "The Democratic Party Electoral Disaster Act of 2011".

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