The $85 billion in automatic cuts required in the so-called “sequester” were supposed to feel so dire that both Democrats and Republicans would fear letting them take effect — and would instead strike a broader, long-term bargain to significantly reduce the nation’s budget imbalance. But here comes the sequester anyway: As today’s deadline neared, there was little motion toward a deal.
Instead, the most ideological elements of both parties have talked themselves into thinking the cuts aren’t intolerable after all. Liberal Democrats don’t just like the deep reductions in the Pentagon budget; they also steadfastly oppose any modification of future Medicare and Social Security benefits, which is one crucial element of a long-term budget deal. Tea Party Republicans don’t just see any spending cuts as a positive; they also oppose any further revenue increases, which are the other crucial element of a deal.