When the White House was asked about the economic contraction that took place in the last quarter of 2012 — growth was -0.1 percent, the first in negative territory since 2009 — spokesman Jay Carney was quick to point fingers.  “Our economy is facing a major headwind,” Carney said Wednesday, “and that is Republicans in Congress.”

Carney, whose boss, the president, has been in office four years, claimed that Republican “brinksmanship” has driven the economy into the ground.  Perhaps the biggest problem, Carney said, is that GOP leaders are now discussing allowing so-called sequestration cuts go into effect as scheduled at the beginning of March.

The sequester — about $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts agreed to during the debt-ceiling negotiations in 2011 and signed into law by President Obama — were designed to be so unacceptable to both parties that leaders would intervene with more rationally-designed cuts before the sequester ever went into effect.  Since Democrats designed the reductions to have a disproportionate impact on defense — in line for about $500 billion in cuts — some Democrats believed Republicans would never allow sequestration to go into effect.  At that point, all the cuts, including hundreds of billions in discretionary spending favored by Democrats, would go out the window.

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