Sperling: Obama on right side of sequester

March 3, 2013 at 3:30 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 3 (UPI) -- Gene Sperling, President Barack Obama's top economic adviser, did the Sunday talk show circuit, warning Americans about the impacts of the sequester.

On CNN's "State of the Union" Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, told moderator Candy Crowley the sequester -- the Washington term for a series of harsh, across-the-board spending cuts totaling $85 billion -- would cost the American economy 750,000 jobs and shave 0.6 percent off growth of gross domestic product.

"What that means is that every time you see an economic number, the next few months, you will know that there's less jobs being created that would have -- than would have been had we come to a bipartisan agreement," Sperling said.

Obama and Republicans have spent the better part of two weeks seeking to cast blame on the other for the spending cuts. The debate has centered on whose idea the sequester was in the first place, with Republicans charging it was Obama aides who proposed the automatic spending cuts in the first place.

At first denying the allegations, Democrats have since clarified: They proposed the sequester, but only after they said Republicans demanded some sort of automatic spending cuts.

"A murderer comes up to you and says, 'Give me your wallet.' You say, 'I don't have my wallet, but here's my watch.' Well, technically giving your watch was your idea, but it doesn't really tell the whole story," Sperling said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

He also faced down criticism that the Obama administration has over-hyped the cuts' effects in an attempt to turn public opinion against Republicans who favor them.

"This is not a win for Republicans," he said on ABC's "Face the Nation." "You know Republicans are supposed to be for stronger national defense. This cuts our military preparedness dramatically. They're supposed to be for border security? These sequester cuts will end up meaning enough reduction in hours that it would be the equivalent of 5,000 border patrol agents being cut."

Sperling also answered questions about a Beltway feud gone public. Journalist Bob Woodward of the Washington Post said Sperling "threatened" him not to publish a story charging the Obama administration was "moving the goal posts" in the ongoing budget battle with Republicans by first proposing the sequester -- a series of harsh spending cuts -- then seeking to replace it was a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

He told ABC's Geroge Stephanopoulos he hasn't spoken with Woodward since the famous Washington muckraker went public with his displeasure over Sperling's remarks in an email exchange. The notes seem relatively cordial in general, but at one point Sperling tells Woodward he'll "regret it" if he publishes his story on the sequester.

"I hope we can put it behind us," Sperling said on "Face the Nation." "Because I think we both care about the policy issues we were debating, and I think ... the focus of our national debate should ... not [be] on our email exchange."

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