The headline is not some clever teaser but an honest question I’m putting to the community. In less than a month the sequestration cuts are set to take place and it is still unclear what the best plausible outcome is from a progressive perspective.
With the economy still extremely weak, the best solution would be to eliminate or “indefinitely delay” most of the idiotic cuts. The last thing we need in a time of still-high unemployment is more austerity. Sadly, with Washington still in the grips of deficit hysteria this option is almost never even mentioned. One can only hope this might change in the next few weeks.
A distant second best would seem to be replacing most of the cuts with targeted long-term revenue increases. Even though that idea technically meets some deficit neutral criteria, it would be dead on arrival in the Republican controlled House.
This basically leaves us with only three plausible outcomes that are all bad: the two basic proposals put forward by the leaders of the major parties, and just letting the sequester happen.
Republicans are insisting that the sequestration cuts be replaced with an equal amount of other cuts. If we are going to be forced to do something as idiotic as adopting austerity at this moment, then from a progressive perspective just letting the sequestration cuts happen seems like the least-bad option. The sequester is half military cuts and contains few real cuts to the social safety net. If we are going to cut, the bloated defense budget is the best place.
Democrats want instead to replace the sequester with a mixture of new revenue with other cuts. Theoretically a package could be made that is better than the sequester, but Republicans are adamant about no new taxes.
The only way I can really picture Republicans ever accepting more taxes is in exchange for Democratic willingness to sacrifice a sacred cow, like Medicare or Social Security. Permanently stealing from the retirement of millions of Americans to temporarily funnel more money to a bloated military should be totally unacceptable to any progressive.
At this moment there seems to be no good plausible outcomes, just a plethora of “least worse” ones.