NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 23, 2013

Looking ahead one week -- and beyond

Bill Plante
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Big Freddy was hunched over his morning newspaper when I arrived for our midweek get-together.

“Is it that interesting?” I asked.

“Better than that,” he said as I shoved my way into my side of the booth.

“That being what?” I asked.

“Seeds of the blame game over who’s responsible for the misery that’s just beginning to take root,” Freddy said.

“Fear of the sequester,” I said.

“Fancy name for spending cuts,” Freddy said.

“If they really happen,” I said. “Republicans could fold if the heat back home gets hot enough.”

“A few will, but not enough,” Freddy said. “Boehner’s going for broke on this because it offsets his losing to Obama on a tax deal back in 2011. He believed he and Obama had settled for some $400 billion debt limit in more tax revenues, but Obama doubled down on it at the last minute.

“Leaving Boehner high and dry,” I said.

“You have to look at where they were and why,” Freddy said. “No. 1, Obama is doing all he can to get the House back from the Republicans two years from now. That will give him four years for Democrat control in both branches if they can keep the Senate, instead of two if the Republicans keep the House.

“If the Republicans keep the House and get the Senate back, Obama’s presidency gets a lot of time to play golf.

“No. 1 for Boehner is getting what he can not only by way of budget cuts, but not giving away so much his right-wingers in the House will shoot it down. He claims the two of them had settled for revenue increases of $400 million, but at the last minute Obama goes for $800 million, which there was no way Boehner could get that from the House.”

“So, what’s next?” I said.

“It’s part and parcel to what’s ahead next week because that’s when the sequester kicks in,” Freddy said.

“Sequester being?” I asked.

“What happens in Washington when the roof falls in it’s automatic cuts time.” Freddy said. “All kinds of cuts in what the feds are doing. Defense spending for the military, federal jobs, whatever ...”

“Which Republicans have been trying to get,” I said.

“And Obama sees that like B’rer Rabbit pleading with B’rer Fox, ‘Please don’t throw me in that briar patch,’ which is what he wants B’rer Fox to do because he knows how to handle briars, which B’rer Fox doesn’t.”

“Are you sure that’s coffee you’re drinking?” I asked.

“The point is we’re at a history-making turning point here,” Freddy said. “Whatever happens in the next week is going to set the stage for the next congressional election and Obama’s legacy. Both parties are going for broke on it.

“Obama’s gamble is Democrats will be able to blame Republicans for what happens when you cut government jobs and services. There’s a lot to that. We’ve been chasing state and federal funds for so long we’re not accustomed to running on empty.

“Republicans are gambling that cutting government expenses are what we need to do to boost the economy, and this is the time to do it because of the 2 percent increase in federal taxes we’re paying again after the two years of its lifespan.”

“Whoever’s right or wrong in Washington, nobody can really predict outcomes,” I said.

“Depends on whose outcome you’re looking at,” Freddy said. “If it’s which party rules the roost in Washington, that’s one thing. If it’s yours, that’s something else.

Both sides have less than a week to decide whether to hold or fold. Voters will take whatever the fallout means to the polls 18 months from now.

“That’s what this is really all about.”

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Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His email address is plantejr@comcast.net.