President Obama has far more latitude than he is letting on to choose the cuts he wants if the sequester kicks in, and he can avoid many of the cataclysmic results that he has been warning about over the past week, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The reason is that the White House is misidentifying the program level at which the cuts must be enacted. Obama and his advisers actually have more room within various agencies to choose between programs than they say they do.
From the Journal:
According to Mr. Obama and his budget office, the sequester cuts are indiscriminate and spell out specific percentages that will be subtracted from federal “projects, programs and activities,” or PPAs.
Except for the exemptions in the 2011 budget deal, the White House says it must now cut across the board regardless of how important a given PPA is. Food inspectors, say, will be treated the same as subsidies for millionaire farmers.
Not so fast. Programs, projects and activities are a technical category of the federal budget, but the sequester actually occurs at the roughly 1,200 broader units known as budget accounts. Some accounts are small, but others contain hundreds of PPAs and the larger accounts run to billions of dollars.
What’s more, Republicans are prepared to give Obama more authority to make good choices.
Meanwhile, Obama’s political arm, Organizing for Action, waded into the fray today with an email from former Obama campaign operative Stephanie Cutter urging the millions on the OFA email list to “keep the pressure on congressional Republicans to do the right thing.”
Cutter said the sequester would result in 10,000 teacher being laid off, 70,000 kids being “kicked out of” Head Start, veterans thrown on the street, hungry seniors, and so forth.