Sequester? I’ll Take Two, or Three, or …

February 20, 2013

If the automatic budget cuts set in motion back in 2011 – known as the “sequester” – go into effect soon, as will be the case without Congressional action, people will die. At least that is if the level of rhetoric to which President Obama has now lowered himself to bears any actual resemblance to reality. (Let us leave out for now that politics seldom ever really bears any resemblance to reality to begin with.)

Speaking in front of cameras Tuesday – and flanked by uniformed first responders otherwise known to political cynics as ‘prop people’ often used for emotional, rather than rationale, appeals – Obama warned of the following (abbreviated to prevent potential reader nausea):

“Emergency responders … their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded… FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go… Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.”

Who, according to Obama, will be to blame for these supposedly outrageous “meat-clever”-type cuts? The usual suspects: “Congress.” Or what he really means: Those evil, rich-loving Republicans who only cater to ‘special interests.’  Never mind the minor detail that the sequester was actually the Obama administration’s idea. In fact, Obama was at one point adamant against backtracking on it. In November of 2011, he warned, “I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts – domestic and defense spending.” He added, “There will be no easy off-ramps on this one.”

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But don’t sweat the details, right? Political rhetoric is much more preferred in situations like this. And none is more preferred than the rhetoric that claims this sequester actually represents ‘cuts’ – and the “meat-cleaver” kind at that! Unfortunately, in ‘Washington-speak,’ most references to ‘cuts’ are really just slow-downs in the rate of projected growth. Assuming the sequester takes place, the federal budget will actually still grow by $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years. Translation: We’re still going to spend more, just not as much as we had originally planned. Similar to as if an employee were to get a slightly smaller raise instead of larger raise, only employers usually actually have that money to spare for the slightly smaller raise.

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The Upside to Gridlock

November 7, 2010

With the House of Representatives soon to be under Republican control, the government will be divided. The two parties, divergent as they are on ideological grounds, will likely not compromise on much. Such leads to a situation often derided as “gridlock.”

Those on the left, right and in the middle opposed to such gridlock say it is not good for our country. They argue that it means nothing will get done. But given the amount of things done over the years that have added to our massive debt, there may be something to be said for government not doing anything.

Republicans may argue that this gridlock is not acceptable. Their argument is that they must gain the Senate and the presidency in 2012. Then, they can go through with their agenda. It’s an agenda they claim, as they have done before with no significant results, will mean an end to wasteful government spending and a reduction in both the size of our government and its debt. But many of those same Republicans, when asked over the last week since the elections, have been hard pressed to spell out what they specifically would cut to make a significant dent in the debt. All too often they have resorted to the old “cut discretionary spending” mantra. The problem with that is, discretionary spending only makes up a small portion of overall federal spending.

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Memorial Day: The Cost of Freedom

May 31, 2010