I'd very nearly given up trying to convince the political world that sequestration cuts still matter. But then yesterday, something changed my mind.
For those who still care about the policy that was designed to hurt the country on purpose, there's been quite a bit of news lately, all of it showing the sequester doing what it was intended to do. In addition to the voluminous list of documented problems, just over the last few days we've gotten a better sense of the ways in which the policy is hurting the military, public schools, parks, and the justice system. The poor and minorities are disproportionately suffering.
Did the political world care about these stories? Not really. Generally speaking, the slow-motion disaster on auto-pilot just keeps plodding along, with little more than indifference from the Beltway.
So what made yesterday different? This did.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Thursday estimated that keeping the spending cuts from sequestration in place through fiscal 2014 would cost up to 1.6 million jobs.
Canceling the cuts, on the other hand, would yield between 300,000 to 1.6 million new jobs, with the most likely outcome being the addition of 900,000, the CBO said.
The full CBO report, requested by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), is online here.
And why might this part of the sequestration story matter, even after the other elements of the story were largely ignored? Because it offers the political world an important test.
A month ago, several congressional Republican leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), insisted publicly that job creation is their "number one priority." If those claims were true, I have good news -- now they can prove they meant it.
After all, we now have independent confirmation that this one policy, if it remains in place, will cost the nation about 1.6 million jobs through next year. End the policy, on the other hand, and the U.S. economy adds 900,000 jobs.
For those who say the job market is their "number one priority," this is what's commonly known as a "no-brainer."
Let's make this incredibly simple for Congress: either job creation is your top priority or it isn't. If it is, then the House and Senate could take five minutes, scrap the sequester, and help the U.S. job market. A lot.
Is it really that simple? Well, yes, actually it is that simple.
But won't that mean slightly higher spending levels? And won't that mean slightly less deficit reduction?
Perhaps, but either job creation is your top priority or it isn't. If someone says, "I'd like to end the sequester, but not if it means increased spending and higher deficits," then we know, in a very literal sense, that the jobs are not their "number one priority."
It's a straightforward, binary choice. Your call, Republicans.