Automatic spending cuts are now in place. Once again, intransigence succeeded in Washington. The choice was to cut federal programs at all costs, rather than having a balanced vision for tackling the deficit.
This repeats the endless debate of balancing the budget just through cuts or also with tax increases, in this case by closing loopholes that help the wealthiest decrease their taxes. Loopholes like the ones that allowed Mitt Romney to pay a 13.9% tax rate, despite a considerable annual increase in his wealth.
Republicans claim that the tax increases from last December are already enough, and that this time there should only be cuts. Accepting this premise goes against any idea of striking a balance. Taking into account budget cuts from 2011 up to and including this crisis, fewer than 20% of the $3.5 trillion projected over the next decade will be coming from taxes.
Non-defense discretionary federal programs account for only 14% of federal spending, but are facing 44% of the weight of the cuts. That means beneficiaries of federal programs ranging from education to affordable housing, from national parks to scientific research.
The solution to the deficit problem requires a deal that includes spending cuts, tax increases and changes to social safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security. This requires removing the ideological blinders that limit those real options that are not detrimental to the economy, the opposite of what is happening in this case.
Intransigence in Washington is a repeated story, one that we are all fed up with.