Doug Elmendorf, the director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, told the House Budget Committee this morning that automatic sequestration cuts will cost the American economy 750,000 jobs just this year. And really, that's just the start, the "sequester" will push the economy closer to a recession, and do real damage to everything from education to food safety to medical research.
All of this leads to a fairly simple question: has Congress lost its mind?
The sequester was supposed to force both Democrats and Republicans to the bargaining table to work out a debt-reduction deal. With two weeks remaining until the brutal cuts kick in, Republicans realize how drastic the consequences would be, but aren't in the mood to compromise.
Republican lawmakers say a deal to reduce the deficit and replace $85 billion in automatic spending cuts set to take effect on March 1 is even less likely after President Obama's State of the Union address. [...]
"The president said we do not need a bigger government, but a smarter government, and I agree. But actions speak louder than words," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). "For four years, we have seen record deficits and mountains of debt heaped on our children and grandchildren. And for four years we have seen little to no action from President Obama or his Democratic colleagues in the Senate to take our spending problem seriously," Cantor added.
Three simple questions for Eric Cantor:
1. Do you realize President Obama and his Democratic colleagues have already approved $2.5 trillion in debt reduction; the deficit is shrinking at its fastest pace in generations; and government spending isn't growing at all? Or do you not pay attention to such details?
2. Do you realize that you voted for Bush's tax cuts, Bush's wars, Bush's Medicare expansion, and Bush's Wall Street bailout, every penny of which was deficit financed, without any regard for the "mountains of debt heaped on our children and grandchildren"? Or do you assume everyone in America has a very short memory?
3. If you already know the sequester will hurt Americans, why are you prepared to let it happen?
Of course, Cantor isn't the only one who's very hard to take seriously.
At this point, nearly every Republican member of Congress is saying the sequestration cuts will happen, and the GOP will simply tolerate the damage. These comments, in particular, were literally unbelievable.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday predicted the sequester would take effect, blaming President Obama and Senate Democrats for not offering an alternative or passing a budget.
"Because the Senate has not acted, because the president has not put a proposal yet on the table, that is why I think the sequester will probably occur," Ryan told "CBS's This Morning." "We have acted in the House. The Senate has not, the president has not, and that is why I think it will happen."
Maybe Paul Ryan isn't feeling well?
Senate Dems have a sequester alternative. The president has a sequester alternative. Both the Senate and the president have said they're ready for talks with Republicans. How can Paul Ryan not understand this?
"We have acted in the House"? For crying out loud, how can the chairman of the House Budget Committee not realize that his own caucus in his own chamber hasn't acted and hasn't presented a sequester alternative?
Honestly, becoming a prominent Republican policymaker must be incredibly liberating -- you get to say anything you want, even when you know it's the opposite of reality, without any regard for evidence or honesty, knowing there will be no consequences whatsoever.