The truth may set you free, but it's not doing much to help the economy. The truth in question, according to Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, is that while members of Congress complain about the effects of sequestration, they secretly are relieved at having the spending and cutting decisions taken out of their hands.
Appearing before reporters this morning at a press breakfast organized by The Christian Science Monitor, Flake was asked about the paradox of achieving a grand bargain becoming harder even as falling deficits makes such a deal's needed scope smaller. "It's amazing what a drop in $400-500 billion a year in the deficit will do," he quipped, adding that the pressure for a deal would undoubtedly ratchet back up in the fall when Congress must again address the debt ceiling. Then he added:
The fact that the sequester went into effect has been another thing that has taken some of the pressure off and a lot of members of Congress will publicly complain and moan about the sequester and privately say better that somebody else makes the decision than us. Unfortunately that's what happens.
If he's speaking the truth, it would speak to the utter political cowardice on the part of the Secretly Relieved Caucus. While the effects of the sequester haven't had the high visibility impact some predicted, it is still having tough real world impacts around the country including, apparently, in the monthly unemployment data. At the same time increasing numbers of Americans are saying that it is personally affecting them.
There's good news for the fiscal cowards caucus, however: Thanks to the improving economy, no one has to make those spending cut decisions. As I wrote last week, while the fiscal facts of life have changed in the last three years, the terms of the surrounding debate have not – and Flake, who made a point of saying that the deficit is still too big, and his thank god someone's cutting colleagues perfectly illustrate that fallacy.