"Our economy is facing a major headwind, and that is Republicans in Congress." This was how White House spokesman Jay Carney tried Wednesday to explain away any responsibility on President Obama’s part for the 0.1 percent economic contraction that occurred in the fourth quarter of last year. In particular, he cited Republican "brinksmanship" over the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester.
From the way he spoke, you would think that Republicans control the apparatus of government in Washington. You would think that Obama hadn’t been president for four years, or that he didn’t spend months threatening to veto any rollback of the sequester cuts, or that the sequester had not originally been his administration’s idea as a solution to the budget impasse of 2011. But as he has for so long, Obama would rather blame, in Carney’s words, Republican "brinksmanship" over the sequester.
This is rather rich for a few reasons. First, the notion that the defense sequestration might actually happen is a first quarter 2013 development, not from the last quarter. Republicans seemed extremely unlikely to accede to Obama’s defense cut proposal last month, and markets widely expected that a deal would avert the sequester.