Jon Meacham on Sequester Season

Friday, February 22, 2013

The President and Congress are locked in a debate over the effects of the so-called "sequester," with Obama warning of dire consequences and Republicans more and more comfortable with the idea of the automatic spending cuts taking effect. Jon Meacham, executive editor at Random House and author of the book Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, discusses the latest in the negotiations, and other key news from DC.


Jon Meacham

Comments [14]

The Greenspan Commission 'saved' Social Security by doubling (at the time we *thought* temporarily) the amount of payroll withholding collected from American workers and their employers. As a result, the SSA (Social Security Administration) holds about $4.7T of US treasuries. The concept was as the Boomers retired and drew upon their Social Security accounts, the SSA would cash in those securities.

Over that time, our government has been allowed to spend that invested capital on regular consumption items, salaries, buildings, the military, for example, rather than exclusively direct that surplus wisely towards infrastructure and education projects, line items that would ensure the country increases its ability to compete on world markets. The eight years of the Reagan Administration saw the national debt triple from $1t to $3T, Bush II doubled the debt from $5t to $10T. Bush II was particularly egregious in that instead of paying $5T on the debt - this *had* been the projection when he took office, he borrowed an additional $5T!

What has our politicians panties in a bunch is that Social Security has to go from a net gain on the yearly budget to a net draw as that $5T in SSA held debt is cashed in to pay benefits. And just where does the government get the revenue to pay the debt? Taxes, of course. Imagine trying to sell the need to increase taxes to a middle income earner to repay the money we borrowed from you in the first place!

We need to elect politicians with the courage to speak and act truthfully and responsibly on this issue. We need to raise the caps on FICA withholding while lowering the rate of withholding. We need to find a way to 'excuse' the self-employed from matching their FICA withholding after a certain level of income. We need to stop believing that the party who put the fiscal house in disorder can have any credible thing to do with putting it back in order.

Feb. 24 2013 10:29 AM

Is he talking about the 44 Billion Dollar reduction in the spending increases scheduled for a 3.5 TRILLION Dollar yearly budget?

Feb. 22 2013 02:19 PM

I'm not a hater. I think we should double down on public radio and we need more talent as heard on the Brian Lehrer Show - but you know what I don't get about WNYC? What is the purpose of this interview? To promote an author/career? To regurgitate discussion that can be found anywhere online and on broadcast news? This commentary is nothing more than babbling about the political "horse race" and generalizations - we substitute the gabfest of election politics to the gabfest of procedural strategy. When is local public radio going to focus on substantive specifics that educate the populace versus rehashing themes you can easily find elsewhere? Local public radio would be more true to it's cause if it focused on issues impacting our city - like the NYPL's crazy expansion of the Schwartzman Building as a quick example - than repackaging mainstream political discourse. Blah, blah, blah.

Feb. 22 2013 01:36 PM

Re: Brian's selected tweet:

I think Obama should try to understand basic economics. But he's blindly following the Austerians do n the path Great Britain and many EU nations have trod, to economic downturn and misery for the masses.

Remember what Upton Sinclair said: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

Feb. 22 2013 12:59 PM
AM from NYC

Pity Brian let Meacham get away with the false statement that Obama has only offered tax or revenue increases as a solution to the long term deficit issue. As Jonathan Chait shows in this article this is simply not true. David Brooks was forced to admit it today.

Feb. 22 2013 12:54 PM

For anyone who needs to refresh their memory of the lyrics of Children of the Damned (or didn't know it in the first place), this link.

Feb. 22 2013 12:51 PM

Amazing that John Meacham can carry on in his ever so reasonable sounding tone with such utter bullshit and propaganda.

And not be called on it....

SocSec is an earned benefit, to which those who pay in are entitled. So, yes, it is an entitlement, an earned entitlement. It is paid for by the recipient -- unless the person receives death benefits as a spouse and/or children.

SocSec also has a revenue stream separate from the general revenue. That many politicans decided to raid the SocSec "lockbox" and use the funds is not new. What is new that these pols have decided to now say they don't want to reimburse the SocSec fund.

Then, Meacham told this cunning tale that when he could talk to politicians away from the public or chance of being heard, they would all, to a person, say that they knew exactly how to fix the debt and deficit: Just do what Pete Peterson wants!

In particular, go after the earned benefit programs managed by government.


(Note: Not shouting, just can't italicize or bold for emphasis here, so must use caps.)

With new studies showing that the all the gains since the Big Meltdown have gone to the very top, why did Obama give up so easily on taxing those wealth transfers from the vast manority of Americans to the Tippy Topsters?

Probably for the same reason there have been no criminal charges or Big Bankster breakups.... Corporatist pols, by definition, protect Big Corporations and their actions.

It may be a Republican wet dream to have a small and precariously situated middle class, but it will not result in an actual democracy if it goes on as it has since the days of Reagan.

I never dreamed this is what my country would become. Under Reagan/Bush the Elder, I remember thinking we could be headed to Banana Republic status, with an incredibly wealthy tiny minority controlling the huge and poorer majority, buying the politicians to do their bidding. But,I told myself, it couldn't happen here.

Now, it has.

I fear for the coming generations of Americans.

Feb. 22 2013 12:44 PM

wow play a children of the damned to shape public policy.

Feb. 22 2013 10:43 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The "Keep the gov't's. hands off my Medicare" story is so old by now, is anyone still saying that except as an example of ignorance?

And it's nice to hear a mention of George Washington on his actual birthday, which no one seems to make anything of anymore!

Feb. 22 2013 10:24 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I think that in honor of George Washington's birthday today, everyone in government has to tell the truth and nothing but the truth all day today. Wouldn't that be refreshing?

I'm so sick of this wrangling in Washington all the time. Legislators should legislate, not play chicken in Congress. The republicans need to come to terms with the fact that the Democrats won this election and get on with the People's business and stop all this posturing. We, the People, have spoken. Do our will!

Feb. 22 2013 10:21 AM

How many more times does this fellow have to repeat that SS is a source of the deficit, before he's corrected?

And if he's so poorly informed to make this claim, why are we listening to him?

Feb. 22 2013 10:19 AM
Jf from Logic land

A lot of those threats sound awesome! I all for anything that post pones their plans for a police state dystopia where the government arrests gardeners and lemonade stands, and people who wantt to live somewhere. Maybe they wont have the money to buy all those drones and persecute people forr victimless "crimes" and new crime like watching tv for "free" on the internet that costs 50$ a month more than tv used to.

Feb. 22 2013 10:18 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

Everyone should stop paying taxes for all the incredible cruelty and evil this country does in and out of our borders.

Feb. 22 2013 10:17 AM
john from office

Another example of the republicans shooting themselves in the foot and looking like the lunatic fringe. Tea party has become our taliban.

Feb. 22 2013 10:11 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.