How did the sequester, once viewed as a blunt force political trauma instrument designed to compel alternative action, become the likeliest solution to the fiscal stand-off? First, some Republicans are willing to allow the defense cuts to go through because it serves their highest principle of budget cuts no matter where they come from. Some Democrats, including the president, may be satisfied that the sequester grabs the (false) idol of deficit reduction without touching entitlements. In effect, both political parties may be more comfortable with the whole of the disaster than the sum of the alternatives which would likely require entitlement reform and new revenues. Finally, there are those who believe that the specific structure of the resolution to fiscal uncertainty doesn’t matter; the mere fact of it will cause investment to flourish and markets to boom.
But here is what some Democrats in particular are missing. They are sacrificing many worthy national priorities on the altar of their absolutist opposition to entitlement reform. It is worth becoming familiar with what's included in the bland term "discretionary spending" because this is what the sequester whacks with its cleaver. It includes special education, research into clean energy and biomedical discoveries. (Disclaimer: I work for a coalition that supports NIH funding.) Put less bloodlessly, these cuts will mean special needs kids are hurt, cures for disease are delayed or canceled and we slip further behind in one of the biggest drivers of our competitiveness: the race for sustainable energy sources.
So consider this a wake-up call for progressive, pro-growth Democrats. Sleep-walking into the sequester is not a safe way to govern. People will get hurt.