Conservative Media Ignore Obama's Sequester Plan

Conservative media are attacking President Obama for supposedly criticizing scheduled across-the-board cuts, known as the sequester, while not proposing alternatives to avoid them. In reality, Obama has proposed a plan to replace the sequester that includes over $930 billion in spending cuts and $580 billion in new tax revenue.

“The President Has Zero Plan”: Right-Wing Media Ignore And Distort Obama's Plan To Avoid Sequester

NYT's David Brooks: "[Obama] Hasn't Actually Come Up With A Proposal To Avert Sequestration, Let Alone One That Is Politically Plausible." In the initial version of his February 21 New York Times column, David Brooks claimed that Obama has not proposed a plan to avoid the sequester and has instead offered the “vague” concept of “tax increases on the rich”:

Under the Permanent Campaign Shimmy, the president identifies a problem. Then he declines to come up with a proposal to address the problem. Then he comes up with a vague-but-politically-convenient concept that doesn't address the problem (let's raise taxes on the rich). Then he goes around the country blasting the opposition for not having as politically popular a concept. Then he returns to Washington and congratulates himself for being the only serious and substantive person in town.

Sequestration allows the White House to do this all over again. The president hasn't actually come up with a proposal to avert sequestration, let alone one that is politically plausible.

He does have a vague and politically convenient concept. (Tax increases on the rich!)  [The New York Times, 2/21/13]

Fox's Doocy: “The President Has Zero Plan. The Republicans Have Two.” On the February 22 edition of Fox & Friends, during a discussion of the sequester, co-host Steve Doocy claimed, “The president has zero plan. The Republicans have two.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/22/13]

Fox Guest Marc Thiessen: The President Has Not “Proposed Any Alternative Cuts The Way The Republicans Did” To Avoid The Sequester. On Fox's America Live on February 21, frequent Fox guest and former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen said:

THIESSEN: Well, if these cuts are so bad, what is the president doing about it? Has he proposed any alternative cuts the way the Republicans did? Has he asked for authority from Congress to reprogram the cuts to make them more targeted? Has he met with John Boehner? No, he's going out and holding campaign events with first responders and talking to local TV anchors who won't ask him tough questions like, 'Well, wasn't this your idea, Mr. President?' So he is campaigning, rather than leading, and he should be governing, not going out there trying to blame Republicans for his own creation.

Thiessen later said the Democrats' solution is “to raise taxes again” and continued: “Look, we just had a $600 billion tax increase with no spending cuts. Now that we have automatic spending cuts, Obama wants to replace them with more tax increases. Where is the balanced approach he talked about?” [Fox News, America Live, 2/21/13

But Obama Has Proposed A Specific Plan To Replace The Sequester ...

White House Spokesperson: Obama Has “Laid Out A Specific Plan” That “Resolves The Sequester.” In a February 21 post on the White House blog, White House Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri wrote that Obama has “already reduced the deficit by over $2.5 trillion” and has “laid out a specific plan to do more.” She continued: “His proposal resolves the sequester and reduces 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.” The post linked to a plan with specific proposals to cut $930 billion from discretionary and mandatory spending as well as raise $580 billion in revenues:

[The White House Blog, 2/21/13]

White House Senior Adviser: “Here Is The President's Detailed Sequester Plan That [David Brooks] Doesn't Think Exists.” On his Atlantic Journal-Constitution blog, reporter Jamie Dupree quoted White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer confirming that the White House has “a detailed plan” to avoid the sequester. Dupree's report included the plan from the February 21 White House blog post. [Atlantic Journal-Constitution, Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider, 2/22/13]

... And Obama Has Consistently Said He Favors “Balanced Approach” Of Cuts And Revenue Increases To Replace Sequester ...

Obama's Feb. 9 Weekly Address: We Need “Balanced Cuts And [To] Close More Tax Loopholes Until [Congress] Can Find A Way To Replace The Sequester With A Smarter, Longer-Term Solution.” Obama's February 9 weekly address focused on “Averting the Sequester and Finding a Balanced Approach to Deficit Reduction.” Obama said:

OBAMA: [R]ight now, if Congress doesn't act by March 1, a series of harmful, automatic cuts to job-creating investments and defense spending - also known as the sequester - are scheduled to take effect. And the result could be a huge blow to middle-class families and our economy as a whole.


The good news is, there's another option. Two months ago, we faced a similar deadline, and instead of making deep, indiscriminate cuts that would have cost us jobs and slowed down our recovery, Democrats and Republicans came together and made responsible cuts and manageable changes to our tax code that will bring down our deficit. This time, Congress should pass a similar set of balanced cuts and close more tax loopholes until they can find a way to replace the sequester with a smarter, longer-term solution. [, 2/9/13]

State Of The Union Address: “A Balanced Approach To Deficit Reduction, With Spending Cuts And Revenue” Is Needed Instead Of Sequester Cuts. In his State of the Union address to Congress on February 12, Obama stressed that a “balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue” is needed instead of the sequester cuts:

OBAMA: These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness.  They'd devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research.  They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs.  That's why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as the sequester, are a really bad idea. 


But we can't ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful.  (Applause.)  We won't grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers and more cops and more firefighters.  Most Americans -- Democrats, Republicans, and independents -- understand that we can't just cut our way to prosperity.  They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share.  And that's the approach I offer tonight.  [, 2/12/13]

Obama's Feb. 19 Remarks On The Sequester: “For Two Years, I've Offered A Balanced Approach To Deficit Reduction That Would Prevent These Harmful Cuts.” On February 19, Obama gave a speech on the sequester in which he highlighted his plan for “a balanced approach to deficit reduction that would prevent these harmful cuts”:

OBAMA: Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists, they've already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as sequestration, are a bad idea.  They're not good for our economy.  They're not how we should run our government.

And here's the thing:  They don't have to happen.  There is a smarter way to do this -- to reduce our deficits without harming our economy.  But Congress has to act in order for that to happen.

Now, for two years, I've offered a balanced approach to deficit reduction that would prevent these harmful cuts.  I outlined it again last week at the State of the Union.  I am willing to cut more spending that we don't need, get rid of programs that aren't working.  I've laid out specific reforms to our entitlement programs that can achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms that were proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.  I'm willing to save hundreds of billions of dollars by enacting comprehensive tax reform that gets rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well off and well connected, without raising tax rates.

I believe such a balanced approach that combines tax reform with some additional spending reforms, done in a smart, thoughtful way is the best way to finish the job of deficit reduction and avoid these cuts once and for all that could hurt our economy, slow our recovery, put people out of work.  And most Americans agree with me. [, 2/19/13]

... As Even Right-Wing Media Later Acknowledged

Brooks: “It Is Not Fair To Suggest, As I Did, That Tax Hikes For The Rich Is The Sole Content Of The President's Approach.” In a Feb. 22 postscript to his column, Brooks acknowledged that the White House has proposed changes “to spending levels and entitlement programs,” writing:

The above column was written in a mood of justified frustration over the fiscal idiocy that is about to envelop the nation. But in at least one respect I let my frustration get the better of me. It is true, as the director of the Congressional Budget Office has testified, that the administration has not proposed a specific anti-sequester proposal that can be scored or passed into law. It is not fair to suggest, as I did, that tax hikes for the rich is the sole content of the president's approach. The White House has proposed various constructive changes to spending levels and entitlement programs. These changes are not nearly adequate in my view, but they do exist, and I should have acknowledged the balanced and tough-minded elements in the president's approach. [The New York Times, 2/21/13]