Obama: ‘Brutal’ Budget Cuts March 1 Threaten Economic Recovery

Photograph by Rich Clement/Bloomberg

A newly-renovated corridor leading to a ramp is seen at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.

The “automatic, brutal” spending cuts in Defense and other sectors of discretionary federal spending set to take effect March 1 pose a threat to the nation’s economic recovery, President Barack Obama said today.

“Our top priority must be to do everything we can to grow the economy and create good, middle-class jobs,” the president said in an appearance at the White House complex. “That’s our North Star.”

“That’s why it’s so troubling that just 10 days from now, Congress might allow a series of automatic, severe budget cuts to take place that will do the exact opposite,” he said. “It won’t help the economy, won’t create jobs, will visit hardship on a whole lot of people.

“The whole design of these arbitrary cuts was to make them so unattractive and unappealing that Democrats and Republicans would actually get together and find a good compromise of sensible cuts as well as closing tax loopholes and so forth,” the president said. “This was all designed to say we can’t do these bad cuts — let’s do something smarter.  That was the whole point of this so-called sequestration.”

“Unfortunately, Congress didn’t compromise,” he said. “They haven’t come together and done their jobs, and so as a consequence, we’ve got these automatic, brutal spending cuts that are poised to happen next Friday.”

“If Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness. It will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research,” Obama said. “It won’t consider whether we’re cutting some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness, or a vital service that Americans depend on every single day.  It doesn’t make those distinctions.”

“These cuts are not smart.  They are not fair,” he said. “They will hurt our economy.  They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls.  This is not an abstraction — people will lose their jobs.  The unemployment rate might tick up again.”

“And here’s the thing:  They don’t have to happen,” he said. “There is a smarter way to do this –- to reduce our deficits without harming our economy.  But Congress has to act in order for that to happen.”

The solution, he maintained, is a balanced approach to spending cuts and tax revenue increases — achieved with the repeal of tax exemptions.

That’s a tax balance in which the Republican-run House says it has no interest.

See the Senate Appropriations Committee’s accounting of the impact of that sequestration here.

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