We have now gone five weeks into the sequester, and had all the pre-trigger hysteria been even close to correct, our nation’s capital should have looked something like a cross between Grapes of Wrath and Soylent Green. (“The federal budget is people!!!“) Reason’s Kennedy visits Washington DC to discover how cutting the rate of increase in federal spending has reduced the Beltway to a post-apocalyptic existence, perhaps with Tina Turner in charge of Capitaldome — two parties enter, one party leave.
Instead, it looks like business as usual everywhere but the White House, which is refusing to conduct tours while the Obamas vacation and campaign just as they always do. It’s good to know that some things never change …
Before sequestration began on March 1, President Barack Obama warned that budget trims of up to $85 billion in 2013 would force brutal and devastating shutdowns of programs related to everything from vaccination to school lunches. The director of the National Zoo told the Washington Post he feared he might have to shut down popular exhibits featuring lions and tigers.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told travelers to expect much longer lines at airports due to cuts for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The White House even cancelled tours of the president’s home.
So just how brutal is post-sequester life in the nation’s capital now that as much as 2 percent of annual federal spending is on the chopping block?
Well, perhaps I’m being a bit harsh. After all, Barack Obama offered to share in the pain of federal workers by voluntarily cutting his pay 5%. That didn’t impress Dana Milbank, who wondered why Obama isn’t parting with the other 95%:
Federal workers face unpaid furloughs because of the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration. That’s a serious economic hardship for many middle-class families, and whether or not Obama intended for it to happen, it’s a direct result of a bill he signed into law.
And so the White House announced that Obama, “to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants,” would return 5 percent of his salary to the Treasury. The gesture, matched by several Cabinet members, was meant to be roughly the same percentage by which domestic agencies are being cut. But the amount — $20,000 of his $400,000 salary — is so little for a man made wealthy by his political fame that it comes across as patronizing.
Obama and his wife reported income of $8 million in his first three years in office, largely from royalties on his memoirs, which were best-sellers because of his political fame. And the Obamas will soon go from rich to filthy rich. Bill Clinton earned $89 million in speaking feesin his first 11 years out of the White House, according to an analysis of disclosures done last year by CNN. Clinton received an average of $189,000 per appearance — a record that Obama will be in a good position to match after his presidency ends.
For a man worth millions and soon to be worth tens of millions of dollars, $20,000 is not much of a sacrifice.
So what should Obama get paid for all the hard work he puts into being President? Oddly, Milbank puts that value at about the same level as most Hot Air readers:
During World Wars I and II, there were “dollar-a-year men” who left lucrative private-sector careers to serve their country in Washington. If Obama really wants to share in the furloughed workers’ “sacrifice,” he should follow that honorable example and give back all but a dollar of his $400,000 salary. When he leaves office, he’ll be able to earn it back with a couple days’ work.
At least that would symbolically have the buck stopping with Obama. That’s about the only way it does, though.