Social Security Benefits Safe Because Of "Suicidal Spite"
From Jonathan Chait:
As sequestration begins, Republicans have been overtaken with something close to giddiness, and Democrats seized with gloom. It appeared as recently as a few months ago that the threat of across-the-board cuts, disproportionately hurting defense, would force Republicans to negotiate a long-term debt reduction agreement. But Republicans are happily announcing their willingness — and, in many cases, outright eagerness — to absorb a hit to spending of any kind whatsoever, and their total resistance to higher revenue in any form....
It is true that, if you define the struggle in purely zero-sum terms, Republicans can “win.” What they can win is the ability to keep in place, more or less permanently, spending reductions that both exempt the programs they most badly want to cut and that are designed stupidly so as to create maximum harm for minimum budgetary saving. Yes, Obama would probably find this more bothersome than would Republicans.
Of course, this “victory” would mean giving up a chance to cut spending on Medicare and Social Security. Since these programs will consume a growing share of the federal budget, the Republican strategy would mean leaving in place higher spending. And since they’re so popular — even Republican voters don’t want to cut them — Republicans are determined to refuse a golden opportunity to secure bipartisan cover for something they’ll never have the political standing to carry out on their own. In policy terms, “winning” means suicidal spite.