Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie warned Congress Saturday that sequestration, the $1.2 trillion deficit reduction set to take effect March 1, would pose a threat to institutional health of Pearl Harbor, the Oahu-based headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet that Abercrombie called “the most extensive on the planet in terms of its responsibilities and consequences on the sea and in the air.”…
“At Pearl Harbor right now, which I hope everybody can understand symbolizes what happens when you’re not prepared,” said Abercrombie, “we’ll be laying off 19,000 people.” (Bruce Coppa, the governor’s chief of staff, later clarified to a group of reporters that 19,000 people would have their employment reduced by four days a month, but not be altogether laid off.)
You would think by this time that the urbane sophisticates in the news media would be totally hip to the “Washington Monument” strategy, whereby the Park Service closes the most popular attractions first in the event of budget constraints. It’s the oldest bureaucratic trick in the book, and a mark of how far the corruption of our republic has proceeded: if the spenders don’t get their way, they’ll cut back first on the most essential services for which we presume to pay our first tax dollars. Talk about an offer you can’t refuse: the government intends to hold the people hostage to its insatiable rapacity.
Will Americans really fall for threats of delayed air traffic control, longer TSA lines, cancelled food safety inspections, and reruns of “Who’s The Boss” on PBS? (Okay, I made that last one up, but it equals the absurdity of the others.) Of course, what this reveals is one more bit of evidence conservatives have long recognized: the mainstream media are in on the game, and will side with the Washington big government Establishment every time over the interests of the people.
[E]ven for the Pentagon, the cuts are only to the rate of growth for the defense budget in coming years. They are not actual cuts that make spending decline. In a February publication, “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023,” the Congressional Budget Office (summary here, full report here) outlines the increases in defense spending that will happen even with the various spending caps and sequestration cuts that are currently law. Table 1-5 (Outlays) on page 30 outlines projected defense spending in the coming decade. For 2014, the figure is $593 billion. For 2015, it is $597 billion. For 2016, $611 billion. For 2017, $619 billion. For 2018, $628 billion. For 2019, $648 billion. For 2020, $663 billion. For 2021, $679 billion. For 2022, $702 billion. And for 2023, $714 billion.
Some Democrats are uneasy with the prospect of a drawn-out impasse. “I know that there is some common wisdom out there that people are going to have to see the effects for a while before they can deal” on a replacement for the budget cuts, said Sen. Tim Kaine (D., Va.), whose state has large numbers of federal workers and defense companies. “I just don’t believe in that kind of governing.”
The Democrats’ strategy carries risks for the party. It’s unclear how the public will react to the budget cuts, and Democrats could find that people aren’t as inconvenienced as they predicted. That could undercut their position in negotiations with the GOP and, potentially, build an appetite for additional cuts to spending that Democrats will oppose…
“It interrupts [Obama’s] ability to frame up the positive agenda that he proposed to the country in the State of the Union,” said John Podesta, who co-chaired the president’s transition team after the 2008 election. “You get distracted from all the things that you want to do, because you’re back in the scrum” of a daily battle over the budget cuts.
“Too often with this White House, the solution to any challenge is ramping up campaign-style events,” says National Journal’s Charlie Cook. “To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” We’re seeing that again as the president’s sequester inches closer: lots of campaign rallies and rhetoric, no solutions.
You see, the House of Representatives passed legislation – twice (last May and again in December) – to replace President Obama’s sequester with smarter, responsible spending cuts and reforms. Senate Democrats haven’t passed a thing. But instead of urging Senate Democrats to take action, the president seems more interested in campaigning (and blaming Republicans for his mess)…
Underlying all of this is the fact that the president’s budget is late (again) and his Democratic-controlled Senate hasn’t passed a budget in nearly four years.
As Speaker Boehner wrote in the Wall Street Journal this week, “Mr. President, we agree that your sequester is bad policy. What spending are you willing to cut to replace it?” We’re still waiting to hear.
The Administration’s biggest gamble is the decision to start to play the sky-is-falling card, talking about all the negative effects the cuts are going to have on the real lives of real people. If somehow that gambit forces a last-minute deal from Republicans, the Obamans will have hit on a brilliant move. However, if the cuts kick in, and the country and the economy get moody, the chief executive is going to have a hard time rhetorically shutting down the gloom-and-doom storyline, and avoiding the blame and the spillover effects.
Republicans are all excited about Bob Woodward’s latest attempt to set the record straight on the President’s responsibility for giving America the sequester it has before it. The White House courted this trouble by trying to rewrite history a bit too much in seeming to disavow parenthood of this unthinkable beast. Watch to see if the administration completely caves on this battle or keeps trying to work the fringes.
The sequester’s critics correctly say it is not the most intelligent way to prune government; priorities among programs should be set. But such critics are utopians if they are waiting for the arrival of intelligent government. The real choice today is between bigger or smaller unintelligent government.
Obama, who believes government spends money more constructively than do those who earn it, warns that the sequester’s budgetary nicks, amounting to one-half of 1 percent of gross domestic product, will derail the economy. A similar jeremiad was heard in 1943 when economist Paul Samuelson, whose Keynesian assumptions have trickled down to Obama, said postwar cuts in government would mean “the greatest period of unemployment and industrial dislocation which any economy has ever faced.”
Federal spending did indeed shrink an enormous 40 percent in one year. And the economy boomed…
Today, while Obama prepares a governmental power grab to combat global warming, sensible Americans, tuckered out with apocalypse fatigue, are yawning through the catastrophe du jour, the sequester. They say: Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the hamsters of sequestration.
Where the sequester debate deviates from the norm is in its dramatis personae. Unlike prior spending debates, the sequester features Republicans attempting to shift the onus for cutting government onto Obama. U.S. Speaker John Boehner has repeatedly referenced “the president’s sequester” while decrying its “harmful cuts.”
What hypocrisy. Obama and Boehner both supported the sequester as an excuse for yet another unsustainable run-up of our nation’s credit limit – which exhausted its latest $2.1 trillion increase last December (after less than seventeen months).
“The debt ceiling deal in 2011 was agreed to by Republicans and Democrats, and regardless of who came up with the sequester, they all voted for it,” U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) said recently. “So, you can’t vote for something and, with a straight face, go blame the other guy for its existence in law.”…
More to the point it highlights the extent to which leaders of both parties in Washington, D.C. are abandoning taxpayers in order to curry favor with the legacy media and special interest establishment – both of which are dead set against any reduction in the size and scope of government.
Are Republicans in Congress really willing to let these cuts fall on our kids’ schools and mental health care just to protect tax loopholes for corporate jet owners? Are they really willing to slash military health care and the border patrol just because they refuse to eliminate tax breaks for big oil companies? Are they seriously prepared to inflict more pain on the middle class because they refuse to ask anything more of those at the very top?
These are the questions Republicans in Congress need to ask themselves. And I’m hopeful they’ll change their minds. Because the American people have worked too hard for too long to see everything they’ve built undone by partisan recklessness in Washington.