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Sunday, Feb 24 2013 11:00 PM

MARK MARTINEZ: All hail the GOP's stunning sequestration chutzpah

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    Mark Martinez

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Chutzpah. It's a term best understood as a blind arrogance that pushes the kid who killed his parents to ask the court for leniency because he's now an orphan. One element of this is when people try to change story lines or shift blame so others will ignore their role in creating a mess of things.

The Republicans' attempt to change the story line on the budget, and then shift blame onto President Barack Obama for our looming sequestration deadline is a classic case of chutzpah.

If you're catching up, sequestration is part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that mandates across the board spending cuts in defense, health and other areas. After missing established deadlines, we're now waiting for the hatchet to fall on March 1.

According to the GOP -- and if we're to believe Sen. Marco Rubio's State of the Union response -- we're at this point because Obama is an irresponsible big spender who only wants to make government bigger. Worse, the president has refused to work with the Republicans, so they argue that their only option was to accept the president's sequestration proposal. All in the name of fiscal discipline, of course.

Comparing the rhetoric to the real world makes it clear that blaming the president for the sequestration mess might actually take chutzpah to another level. Let's take a look.

If you watched Rubio's State of the Union response, you couldn't be blamed for believing that Obama was the second coming of Lenin. Rubio painted a scary picture of a big government socialist monster in the White House. He has a problem though. If we follow his logic, and Obama is Lenin, that makes Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush outright Marxists; new spending under both grew three times the rate under Obama.

Simply put, new federal spending under Obama has risen at its slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower was president. Remove the recession-induced stimulus spending (left on the president's desk) and new spending under Obama almost grinds to a halt.

But wait. There's more. The size of our federal workforce isn't growing either.

The ratio of federal workers to our civilian population has gone down under Obama. In fact, not only does Obama beat Reagan and Bush II in this area, but we need to go all the way back to President Lyndon B. Johnson to find the same ratio of federal workers to civilians that we see today.

Put more simply, the spending spree the GOP is hammering Obama about -- and is using to refuse to negotiate with him -- never happened.

So why blame Obama for growing government if it's not true? Simple: The GOP wants America to forget that President Obama was handed built-in trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye could see and a toxic economy. The GOP needs a (false) narrative to go along with their larger "just say no" strategy.

"In Do Not Ask What Good We Do," author Robert Draper explains how GOP leaders got together on inauguration night 2009. They pledged to sabotage Obama's agenda by showing "united and unyielding opposition to the president's economic policies." That night, Newt Gingrich even boasted that sabotaging the president would sow the electoral "seeds of 2012." From there the "Party of No" was born.

It's worth noting that during their only debate, congressional candidate Terry Phillips even reminded Rep. Kevin McCarthy about this meeting (which McCarthy attended) only to have him effectively ignore the issue when asked if Draper was telling the truth.

So, here we are, days before falling off yet another fiscal cliff. We have to ask why we're here. The president inherited built-in trillion-dollar deficits. GOP claims about Obama's big spending and growing government aren't true. And the GOP never had any intention of working with Obama. (Forget the Democrats' Senate majority in 2009. I'll just say get a high school student to explain "filibuster" and then have them explain what Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, et al., meant to the Democratic team.)

But let's be clear here. We wouldn't have this sequestration mess if the GOP hadn't threatened to blow up the economy in 2011 over a false narrative, and then voted overwhelmingly for sequestration (which both Rep. Paul Ryan and House Speaker John Boehner wanted and praised).

Yet the GOP wants to blame the president for the sequestration mess. Chutzpah indeed.

Mark A. Martinez, Ph.D., is the author of "The Myth of the Free Market" and professor of political science at CSU Bakersfield.

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