Obama’s sequester

From this side of the Atlantic, it looks like the sequester in the US is going to come into effect and some $85 billion of public spending will – eventually – be avoided. Last minute chit-chat at the White House has not led to any agreement.

I read that President Obama was blaming Congress and warning of the pain ahead.

Somehow this does not ring true.

The President of the US has or controls all the cards and it is he who sets the agenda. He could – I think –  have reached a compromise with Congress whenever he wanted – if he wanted to. But any compromise he could have reached would have contained spending cuts which he may well know is absolutely necessary but which would not have gone down well with his supporters. I note that the markets are not very perturbed and this also suggests that the pill may be bitter but it may well be the correct thing to do.

It seems to me – albeit from very far away – that Obama is actually using the sequester to do some of what is absolutely necessary but where he can – perhaps – avoid blame for the necessary and unavoidable pain.  The US has been more profligate even than Italy for far too long and the public debt cannot be sustained. But nobody wants to be seen as being responsible for the pain that must be borne. It does not seem to me that Obama wanted a compromise to be reached at all. Hence the almost intransigent positions taken by the White House in discussions with Congress. They were intended to fail.

Nothing is as what it seems. This sequester is actually Obama’s opportunity of getting the US to swallow some very bitter medicine without having to take the blame – and he knows it.

If he signs off on it later today it will be because it is his sequester.

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