Well boys and girls, we’re at it again. We’re at yet another “white-knuckle” fiscal deadline not unlike the fiscal cliff crisis a few weeks ago; the debt ceiling crisis; the debt ceiling crisis AGAIN, and so it goes.
“Sequestration,” as the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it, means “to place (property) in custody especially in sequestration” This word, which has become somewhat of a buzz-phrase these past few weeks, is the name for the automatic spending cuts set in place triggered by the inaction of the budget committee tasked with coming up with a plan. These debates took place in 2011 during the debt ceiling conversation when Republicans demanded a 1-for-1 cut for each dollar that the debt ceiling was raised. The debt ceiling was raised, as we know all too well, to the tune of approximately 2.4 trillion dollars. (By the way, we’re nearing that ceiling once again. In fact the president recently signed into law a bill that essentially suspends the debt ceiling temporarily, averting a so-called default . . . and we continue to spiral further into debt.) Meanwhile we continue to spend at a rate of approximately $12,000 a minute. The spending cuts that comprise the “sequestration” on which the president has based his latest scare campaign? 85 billion. That’s roughly 3.54% of the President’s precious 2.4 trillion dollar debt ceiling hike, and is such a minuscule percentage as compared to our overall national debt that it’s too laughable to even bother with the calculations.
As my husband just quipped, “What a joke.” Truly, what a menial, meager,, meaningless approach to “spending cuts.” When a government spends upwards of 10.5 billion dollars a day–call me crazy– the equivalent of 8.09 days of federal spending in cuts isn’t even a band-aid. It’s not even kind of a cut. Be it duly noted, dear readers, that these cuts aren’t “cuts;” they are simply reductions in future spending increases. Here’s a simplified example:
This year we spent $10 dollars. Next year we will spend $15. We’re going to cut spending by $1.50.
A true cut in spending would be to keep spending at $10, and then cut the $1.50 (or more!) from that amount. Remember baseline budgeting as discussed here? Exactly.
Our eager beaver President has been quick to do two things in this latest self-inflicted budget crisis. First, he’s run around the country outlining quite a few catastrophic “consequences” of the sequester that he himself put into place to get his way in the debt ceiling debate. Secondly, he’s effectively denying that he himself crafted sequestration to get his way in the debt ceiling debate.
Let’s start with the doom-and-gloom predications our dear leader proposed this past week. You can suffer through the whole speech here, but for your mental sanity I’ve selected a few key points:
“In a few days, Congress might allow a series of immediate, painful, arbitrary budget cuts to take place — known in Washington as the sequester. Now, that’s a pretty bad name — sequester. But the effects are even worse than the name. Instead of cutting out the government spending we don’t need — wasteful programs that don’t work, special interest tax loopholes and tax breaks — what the sequester does is it uses a meat cleaver approach to gut critical investments in things like education and national security and lifesaving medical research. “
You’ll note he implicates Congress as the perpetrator of the oh-so-painful cuts. This has become the narrative as the President has time and again blamed Congress, and not himself, for the concept of sequestration itself. Thanks to the wonders of modern amenities like the internet, we know this to be a gross falsehood. (Incidentally, why ANY politician thinks they can get away with saying they didn’t say or do something they clearly did, in the day and age in which everything lives in perpetuity in the vast expanse that is the Internet is wholly beyond me. ) The White House came up with it, the Republicans agreed to it. . . and we’re up to date. Something tells me a certain Senator Max Baucus isn’t going to be on the White House Christmas Card list this year:
For years, the President has whined and complained about how it’s Congress’ fault- in particular- that it’s the GOP’s fault, and that if they’d only go along with his plans. . . things would be just peachy. Well, for once he’s got his wish- Republicans agreed to the White House’s sequestration plan, yet now he’s blaming Republicans for “refusing to compromise” to spare the country from the sequestration. . . that he devised:
It’s funny he should mention “wasteful spending.” He may want to take a gander at a few of the wasteful checks the U.S. government has written under his administration, including but certainly not limited to a $325,000 Robo-Squirrel project aimed at studying the reaction of rattlesnakes to them; an $84.5 million ($833.8 million over the last 10 years) subsidy to Amtrak to fund its snack program; a $200 million Department of Agriculture Media program which has helped fund a reality TV show in India, among many, MANY others. But when your family’s work and living expenses exceed 1.4 billion dollars, who’s keeping track?
The President then goes on to give a laundry list of horrors resulting in the cuts, including but certainly not limited to:
- “Federal prosecutors to close cases and potentially let criminals go.” Oh, you mean sort of like how ICE released quite a handful of illegal aliens on Monday, citing “sequestration,” even though the cuts haven’t even yet been put into place?
- “Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings, including more than 3,500 children right here in Virginia.” I’d like to know where this concern for the average family’s cost to healthcare was when the fiscally unrealistic healthcare plan of his hit the fan this year. The average family saw their premiums go up $3,000 a year. I know ours certainly did.
Funny thing is, the Republicans presented various and sundry alternative cuts to avoid the “meat cleaver” approach the president now discusses in painful detail; yet, surprise surprise, it was the President and his party who refused to have anything to do with it. He was quite clear, or “simple” about it back in November of 2011:
“My message to them is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off ramps on this one.” So, should the following excerpt from this week’s message indicate he’s had a change of heart?:
“And what I’ve said is if the Republicans in Congress don’t like every detail of my proposal, which I don’t expect them to, I’ve told them my door is open. I am more than willing to negotiate. I want to compromise. There’s no reason why we can’t come together and find a sensible way to reduce the deficit over the long term without affecting vital services, without hurting families, without impacting outstanding facilities like this one and our national defense. There’s a way of doing this.”
Let’s be real. His door is open alright, as long as John Boehner with the rest of the GOP following suit is willing to crawl in on his hands and knees with his own butt on a silver platter. . .
The President’s apocalyptic message this past week continued:
“Now, the reason that we’re even thinking about the sequester is because people are rightly concerned about the deficit and the debt. But there is a sensible way of doing things and there is a dumb way of doing things. I mean, think about your own family. Let’s say that suddenly you’ve got a little less money coming in. Are you going to say, well, we’ll cut out college tuition for the kid, we’ll stop feeding the little guy over here, we won’t pay our car note even though that means we can’t get to work — that’s not what you do, right? “
I tell ya what us real “families” do when things get a little tight. To be sure, we don’t “stop feeding the little guy over there;” we tighten our belts and do without the finer things in life while we right the fiscal ship. We certainly don’t go on $1 million dollar weekend getaways with the world’s most famous (or infamous, however you happen to look at it) golfer, and we certainly don’t take $4 million dollar Christmas vacations. Somebody needs to upload Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” on the presidential Ipod. . .he certainly needs a lesson in leading by example.
At the end of the day, the White House crafted these cuts as a scare tactic. They were a scare tactic then, and they are a scare tactic now. We need to cut, and we need to cut back BIG time, but this is nothing more than a symbolic gesture laced with fear mongering meant to scare the low information voter in submission as the media (that is, if and when he lets them in) backs his every move. After all, it’s certainly hard to argue with the president when he’s flanked with first responders while he pitches the horrors of budget cuts to the American public. To be certain, cuts shouldn’t occur like a blind man with an ax (though as I’ve established, 85 billion is hardly going to stop production of the behemoth machine that is the federal government), but should be addressed intelligently. Funding regimes that hate us, for one; outdated military contracts for which our military no longer has a use is another; funding researching to study online dating. . . the list is extensive.
Our president has made it quite clear over the years that he likes to do things HIS way- what with his lengthy list of executive orders skirting Congressional authority so he could simply “get things done.” Operating under this premise I’d assume that when the GOP approached him with the golden scalpel itself- that is, that HE alone could choose who, what, when, and how the $85 billion in cuts would affect, he’d leap at the chance. No such luck. In fact today the President flatly refused such authority, “instead urged Congress to work out a better solution that involves raising revenue through taxes on the wealthy.”
AAAAND there it is. It’s always about the agenda. It’s always been about the agenda. Let’s go back again to 2011 for a moment. July 12, 2011, to be precise. On page 215 of Bob Woodward’s “The Price of Politics,” we are granted a rare glimpse into a candid Barack Obama moment in which sequestration was being debated behind closed doors at the White House:
“’Then we could use a medium or big deal to force tax reform,’ Obama said optimistically.”
It’s not about getting spending under control. It’s not about getting our fiscal house in order. It’s not about the kiddies’ flu shots or whether or not air traffic controllers can keep their jobs. It’s not about national defense and the security of the free world. It’s about sticking it to the rich. It’s been about nothing less throughout his entire presidency- why should this round of budget talks be any different? So while the president goes ’round the nation giving his “the sky is falling” fireside chats, and the GOP is quite frankly “darned-if-they-do,” and “darned-if-they-don’t”, it is once again the American people stuck in limbo while Washington plays Monopoly with our futures.