The White House budget strategy to avoid spending cuts likely will be to shut down the government, according to the Washington Post.
One sentence tells the whole story: “The White House is likely to frame any government shutdown as a consequence of Republicans protecting the wealthy at the expense of the nation’s economy and poor.”
In other words, President Obama believes he can cause a government shutdown and make Republicans take the blame.
It would not be the first time Democrats have accused the GOP of hurting the poor in an effort to increase spending.
In fact, conservatives have long charged it is the No. 1 tactic in the liberal playbook, often citing a political ad claiming the GOP wanted to push “Granny off the cliff.”
That was the graphic charge liberals made when Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Minn., proposed to help save Medicare in 2012 “by giving beneficiaries a set amount of money every year to buy coverage from competing health plans,” as described by Kaiser Health News.
Republicans counter by saying liberals portrayed Ryan’s modest attempt to reduce Medicare costs by employing market competition as an attempt to kill the elderly.
If that accusation seems over the top, it is not new.
Historically, liberals have accused conservatives who seek to reduce spending of purposefully wanting to hurt the disadvantaged, particularly the poor, sick and elderly.
That's true even at a time of unprecedented and astronomical national debt.
Evidence of that is provided through Internet searches of the terms "Republicans hurt the poor":
- In March, Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., warned "Obama must not give in to GOP’s ‘unquenchable thirst to hurt the needy.’" Grayson accused Republicans of wanting to cut "programs that will disproportionately hurt the poor, the sick and the elderly."
- Also in March, Sadhbh Walshe asked in the Guardian, "How long will voters let Republicans put the rich before everyone else?" She defined reduced spending as shifting "the entire burden ... onto the poorest and neediest in our society, while doing everything ... to protect the pocket books of the wealthy."
- In February, Jed Lewison of the Daily Kos summed up the "GOP sequester strategy: Hurt the poor, harm national security, and destroy jobs to screw old folks." He explained,"Their goal: enact deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits while preserving benefits from tax loopholes and deductions for the wealthiest Americans."
- Progressive News and Commentary announced in January, "Hurting the middle class to spite Obama: GOP senator introduces bill to prevent Medicaid expansion in Michigan." The bill was called "one of the most intentionally childishly mean-spirited, hurt-people-to-spite-Obama acts in recent Michigan history."
- From The Hill in May, "Democrats said the Republicans’ budget plan, unveiled last week by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), would hurt the poor, women and minorities."
- Also in May, Medha Chandorkar of PolicyMic informed readers, "Republicans are making the poor sicker just to hurt Obama."
- That same month, the Mankato Free Press warned, "GOP anti-tax hurts poor, disabled, seniors, students."
- Earlier this month, PoliticsUSA reported, "Republicans are wearing driving millions into poverty as a badge of honor." Someone named Rmuse informed readers,"Republicans can revel in the increasing number of children, women, seniors, and working-poor Americans who are losing already pathetic safety-net provisions they depend on for basic survival."
- Self-described "Christian leader for social change" Jim Wallis wrote in the Huffington Post in 2012, "we must conclude that the Republican budget is an immoral document – in the way it treats the poor."
- In 2012, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post called Ryan's plan "[H]elping the poor by hurting them" and explained how it which "slashes the safety net to pay for tax cuts mostly for wealthy Americans."
- And, at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, former President Clinton told the world, "Republicans will hurt poor kids with autism."
It's a matter of debate whether Democrats really believe Republicans are so mean-spirited and callous, but there can be little denying liberals see vilification of conservatives as an extremely effective political tool.
It may explain why Obama believes he could pursue a strategy of shutting down the government and successfully pin the blame on Republicans to wring concessions from them.
He knows it has happened before.
Republicans were blamed for the government shutdown in 1995-96, even though it was President Clinton who refused to sign a spending bill passed by a GOP-controlled Congress.
Obama has already begun testing the waters, saying in a speech in Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday,"Shutting down the government just because I'm for keeping it open, that's not an economic plan.''
"Threatening that you won't pay the bills in this country when we've already racked up those bills, that's not an economic plan. That's just being a deadbeat," he added.
The president was reacting to news of a Republican plan to try to defund Obamacare.
As WND reported in detail Thursday, it is a politically risky plan precisely because Republicans are aware the president will try to accuse them of causing a government shutdown.
The strategy pushed in the Senate by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and in the House by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., would use the House’s constitutional power of the purse to cut off funding for the Affordable Healthcare Act before it goes into full effect Jan. 1, 2014.
GOP lawmakers would do that by refusing to fund any spending measures that provide funding for the implementation of Obamacare.
That would leave them open to Democrats' accusation of holding the budget hostage – and risking a government shutdown – to scuttle the health care law.
The Republicans' strategy to counter that is to approve a series of bills funding all government services except the health care law.
GOP lawmakers hope passing all the bills needed to keep the government running would prevent Democrats from successfully accusing Republicans of pushing for a government shutdown over Obamacare.
The idea is that would put the burden on the Democrats to keep the government running and force a showdown in which GOP lawmakers could essentially tell them, “Take it or leave it.”
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are widely thought to be wary of taking blame for shutting down the government.
In order to provide momentum for the plan to defund Obamacare, Lee has launched a grass-roots petition drive, and he knows what he's up against.
In his letter urging people to sign the petition, Leee writes, "We need to send a tidal wave of petitions through Washington in the next few weeks."
His appeal also seems specifically designed to put pressure on GOP leaders to get on board.
"We have to tell the D.C. “ruling class” the hard, honest truth: If you vote to fund Obamacare, you're for Obamacare. And if you're for Obamacare, you're against the American people. I need your help to get this message across. We need to make these big-government Washington insiders sit up and take notice before it's too late," warns Lee.
GOP leaders will be wary of trying to defund Obamcare because taking the blame for a government shutdown could cost them at the polls during 2014 midterm elections.
They also will be trying to keep Democrats from trying to increase spending during budget negotiations.
Congress has been keeping the government running in recent years with stopgap measures known as continuing resolutions, and this year those laws expire on Sept. 30.
President Obama gave three speeches on the economy this week and each time he called for spending increases, which he calls "investments."
In Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday the president said, "We know strong infrastructure is a key ingredient to a thriving economy," but "Unfortunately, over the past few years, too many folks have been cutting these investments in Washington."
Obama said this despite having already spent $6 trillion since taking office in a largely futile attempt to stimulate the economy.
And, the credibility of the president's warning about the perils of spending cuts may have taken a significant hit after the sequester went into effect.
He had predicted dire consequences if the $85 billion spending cuts were enacted, but the only negative result most people have heard about was the suspension of White House tours.
Sarah Palin even ridiculed what a small spending cut that was in the big picture, writing on her Facebook page: “If we are going to wet our proverbial pants over 0.3% in annual spending cuts when we’re running up trillion dollar annual deficits, then we’re done. Put a fork in us. We’re finished.”
And more Americans may now agree with Palin than with Obama.
WND CEO and Editor Joseph Farah recently cited polling numbers indictating most Americans are tired of running up national debt.
- 80 percent of Republican voters say they want to freeze borrowing.
- 70 percent of independent voters say they want to freeze borrowing.
- 60 percent of Democrats say they want to freeze borrowing.
And the GOP must be hoping that could prove to be the secret weapon they need to avoid taking the blame for a government shutdown: the power of public opinion.