Maryann Tobin

President Barack Obama used the White House bully pulpit Tuesday to warn Republicans that the automatic budget cuts tied to the sequester will kill jobs at a time when the struggling economy can least afford it.

“These cuts are not smart, they are not fair, they will hurt our economy, they will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls,” Obama said. “This is not an abstraction—people will lose their jobs.”

If Congress does nothing, $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts will go into effect March 1.

The Republican blockade centers around their refusal to include revenue in a deal to reduce the deficit. Democrats are offering a plan that would bring in about $54 million by raising the tax rate on incomes above $1 million to 30 percent, and closing tax loophole on big oil companies. Ideas on closing tax loopholes to reduce the deficit were a major part of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and garnered wide support from Republicans, until Obama suggested it. Now they are against it.

Republicans continue to insist that slashing federal spending is the only way to reduce the deficit. However, what gets cut is where the rift remains. GOP budget cuts target Medicare, Head Start, education, environmental protection and other programs that help the poor and middle class.

“The ideas that the Republicans have proposed ask nothing of the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations, so the burden is all on first responders or seniors or middle-class families,” Obama said.

Obama’s statement on blaming Republicans for burdening seniors is not entirely true. Since 2011, Obama has expressed a willingness reduce Social Security payments over time using a chained consumer price index formula, against objections from House Democrats.

Social Security cuts notwithstanding, Republicans seem ready and willing to use the sequester to take whatever budget cuts they can get, even if they throw more than 750,000 American’s out of work. The plan is a diversion from the job creation platform Republican candidates ran on in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

The GOP’s refusal to close tax loopholes to raise revenue may be further evidence that they are more interested in protecting the rich than they are in deficit reduction. And there is now little doubt that Republicans are not concerned about causing another recession.

Cutting spending sounds like a good idea until it becomes painfully obvious that there are jobs attached to those cuts. When federal workers are laid off, it sets off a domino effect in local economies. Fewer people spending at grocery stores and restaurants and other neighborhood businesses, spreads economic contraction to the private sector. The result: A recession is born.

Few would argue that there is waste that can and should be trimmed from the federal budget. But the indiscriminate budget-hacking of the sequester is yet another reckless and unnecessary crisis, manufactured by Republicans who seem more willing to kill jobs rather than create them.

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