Obama's Strategy to Oust Republicans: Opinion

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- President Obama is painting a dire picture if the House Republicans don't agree to raise taxes, yet again, to avert sequestration.

Unless the GOP agrees to a deal acceptable to Senate Democrats and the president to slash federal deficits by $1.2 trillion over ten years, $85 billion in across-the-board cuts will be imposed automatically on March 1 -- virtually all in defense and other non-entitlement spending.

Obama paints a painful picture. Three-hour airport security lines, fewer meat inspectors, furloughed air traffic controllers requiring cancellation of thousands of flights, teachers and police fired. Some 250,000 lost jobs throughout the economy.

Most of this does not have to happen. Department heads within government agencies have considerable discretion in balancing individual accounts, as required by the 2011 Budget Act.

For example, the Department of Agriculture has one of the largest teams of research economists on the planet, and their dull reports should be cut before vital services like food inspections. Transferring administrative personnel to the economics department and furloughing a few more number crunchers would keep chicken and beef on the shelves.

Even if all spending cuts were through headcount reductions in federal departments and among contractors, each $111,000 of spending in the U.S. economy equates to one job. Therefore, $85 billion, even if wholly taken out in direct layoffs, would imply about 77,000 jobs lost, not 250,000 as the president claims.

Most layoffs can be avoided through partial furloughs -- a tactic Republican and Democratic governors employed during the Great Recession and the president could apply through executive orders.

Apparently, Obama wants a crisis to push Republicans into accepting even higher taxes or losing at the polls in 2014.

In January, the president got more than $85 billion in new taxes on the wealthy, higher payroll taxes for everyone, and an assortment of new levies on incomes, health insurance and medical devices through Obamacare.

The president and Democratic congressional leaders refuse to acknowledge what every bipartisan budget panel has concluded. Genuine entitlement reforms are necessary to bring deficits down to manageable size and maintain national security and other vital government functions.

As in negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner to avert the fiscal cliff, the president has again offered no genuine spending cuts. Now, he says sequestration will require the U.S. aircraft carrier presence in the Persian Gulf must to be cut in half. A 10% cut in naval appropriations requires a 50% reduction in that essential effort, because the Navy is already stretched too thin by Obama's repeated defense cuts and his new commitments in the Pacific.

The president is motivated by political gain to manufacture for taxpayer pain. The real spending choices imposed by sequestration, and that the president wrote the law that requires it, is poorly understood by most voters. He is exploiting the bully pulpit to wrongly blame House Republicans for what will surely follow.

The economy was teetering on recession as early as November. If Americans have another bout with 10% unemployment, he will tag sequestration and the GOP for the mess.

Neither will be true. If we have a recession, other policy failures and the January tax increases are to blame, but long lines, shortages and rising unemployment will set the stage for ousting the House Republicans in 2014.

Americans will suffer needlessly when the cuts come. Obama, seeing partisan advantage, is putting politics above public welfare.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Professor Peter Morici, of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, is a recognized expert on economic policy and international economics. Prior to joining the university, he served as director of the Office of Economics at the U.S. International Trade Commission. He is the author of 18 books and monographs and has published widely in leading public policy and business journals, including the Harvard Business Review and Foreign Policy. Morici has lectured and offered executive programs at more than 100 institutions, including Columbia University, the Harvard Business School and Oxford University. His views are frequently featured on CNN, CBS, BBC, FOX, ABC, CNBC, NPR, NPB and national broadcast networks around the world.

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