Only in Washington can the specter of reducing federal spending by 1% - or perhaps, more accurately, reducing the rate of growth by 1-2% - be treated as the end of days and only with a grossly uninformed public can this type of deception work. Politicians shifting facts in order to shape their agendas is hardly news but sequestration has ratcheted the derp level to weapons grade.
The same president who initially suggested and, later signed, the sequester agreement is now busily campaigning against it, largely because campaigning is all he knows. Predictably on cue, the alleged cuts are branded as “devastating”, “extreme”, and a host of other scare words that include dire warnings of children eating old people in the streets, week-long waits at airport security lines, and no new cheetahs as the National Zoo. (The last is actually part of the discussion.) Who knew that when Hillary raised the “phone call at 3 AM” question that time of day would be the independent variable?
On the other side, the same House Speaker who proclaimed that he “got 98% of what I wanted” in the sequester agreement is now couching it terms that make one think its impact on defense will mean North Korea taking over Hawaii by next week with the rest of the republic to be ravaged by Islamic hordes a few days after that. But this is what political gamesmanship will get you. Boehner and the Repubs surprised Obama by agreeing to the sequester because they thought Romney would win and the deal could effectively be scuttled.
Let’s put the whole thing in context – federal spending is guided by an evil called baseline budgeting which presumes an annual increase in spending regardless of circumstances. So when the planned 8% rate of growth is held to 6%, the political class claims a 2% cut. It’s like your boss deciding that your 5% raise will only be 3% and you complaining of a salary reduction.
Sequester or not, the feds are going to spend more this year than last; no one outside of DC confuses this with an actual cut. Ergo, the president’s perpetual campaign remains in motion, spreading its message of fear that the very thing he once championed will now usher in a parade of horribles. Meanwhile, the Obama dogwashing committee is impervious to fact, even turning on one-time favored son Bob Woodward. In our modern politics-as-religion world, the only thing worse than a heretic is an apostate; how dare Woodward act like a reporter instead of a stenographer.
When federal spending is close to 4-trillion dollars a year, close to half of it with borrowed money, and the prospect of reducing that rate of growth by 85-billion causes heads to spin, one conclusion is that tinfoil has become the nation’s default headgear. And even if spending were being cut by 1-2%, pretending that it signals the collapse of empire is delusion at an exponential level.
Consider how many Americans have managed to trudge on despite income stagnation if not outright reduction over the past several years. Yet, govt pretends that it is sacrosanct in that regard. Even its unholy trinity of waste, fraud, and abuse is absent from this discussion as if talk of controlling spending renders all three of those concerns moot, that not a single nickel of federal spending is unnecessary and that to believe otherwise is unpatriotic and probably insane.
Predictably, the partisans have circled their respective wagons and are dutifully blaming each other for something both sides agreed to do, something neither side spent much time discussing during the 2012 campaign. Then again, neither Team Red nor Team Blue has much of an interest in actually cutting spending; the Reds like to talk about cuts and the Blues have never met a dollar of someone else’s money that could not be spent. And the debt marches on.
Perhaps just as predictably, this too shall pass, much like the fiscal cliff before it. The problem, of course, will not be solved largely because both sides refuse to meaningfully acknowledge that it exists and that resolving it means there can be no sacred cows. Instead, look for a continuation of the sacred bull that always surfaces when the topic of spending comes up, because DC knows it can get away with that. How else do you explain a proposed $2-million dollar cut from the proposed $20-million dollar budget of an agency that no longer exists?