Earlier today Prof. Jacobson covered an issue I wanted to get to, Gov’t still controls the sequester pain meter. His argument was:
The “unilateral” “across-the-board” sequester cuts seemingly absolve government of any responsibility.
Actually, the opposite is true. While some decreases in the growth of government are mandated, and government has less flexibility than usual particularly as to the defense budget, government still controls the pain meter.
The key word in the sequester political debate is “could.”
Brit Hume tweeted a related thought:
The president is now seeking to make as painful as possible a set of budget cuts he proposed and signed into law. Is he a great man or what?
— Brit Hume (@brithume) February 25, 2013
and it was seconded (and clarified) by Don Surber:
@brithume Old, tired tactic. If voters turn down the levy, kids will have to pay for textbooks and there will be no football either. Blah
— donsurber (@donsurber) February 25, 2013
It’s not just that the government gets to apportion the cuts, but it gets to threaten which programs will suffer. I’d like to call it “The Firehouse Syndrome.”
Every time a government claims that it is short of funds and absolutely needs more revenue what do they threaten to shut? The firehouses or some other perceived essential service. Then politicians, bureaucrats and journalists promote this terrible crisis. Government needs more (tax) money or the weakest and most vulnerable in society will suffer!
Lost in this reporting and posturing is why it seems that there never are unnecessary programs that need cutting.
But as George Will pointed out last week in The manufactured crisis of sequester:
Even during this desultory economic recovery, one industry thrives — the manufacture of synthetic hysteria. It is, however, inaccurate to accuse the Hysteric in Chief of crying “Wolf!” about spending cuts under the sequester. He is actually crying “Hamster!”
As in: Batten down the hatches — the sequester will cut $85 billion from this year’s $3.6 trillion budget! Or: Head for the storm cellar — spending will be cut 2.3 percent! Or: Washington chain-saw massacre — we must scrape by on 97.7 percent of current spending! Or: Chaos is coming because the sequester will cut a sum $25 billion larger than was just shoveled out the door (supposedly, but not actually) for victims of Hurricane Sandy! Or: Heaven forfend, the sequester will cut 47 percent as much as was spent on the AIG bailout! Or: Famine, pestilence and locusts will come when the sequester causes federal spending over 10 years to plummet from $46 trillion all the way down to $44.8 trillion! Or: Grass will grow in the streets of America’s cities if the domestic agencies whose budgets have increased 17 percent under President Obama must endure a 5 percent cut!
If we’re talking about 2.3% of the budget the only way the cuts will be disastrous is if those administering the cuts make sure that they are!
Dan Mitchell tweets (via memeorandum)
Earth to New York Times: Please Show Us these “Deep Spending Cuts” You Keep Writing About j.mp/13a3eob
— Dan Mitchell (@danieljmitchell) February 25, 2013
The sequestration cuts will barely register on the growth of the government over the next ten years.
So as Instapundit notes:
I assume that the Obama Administration is doing what it can to ensure maximum sequester-pain for voters. Somebody ought to be filing FOIA requests for emails concerning sequester implementation; there’s probably some gold there.
Much of the pain caused by sequestration will be due to cynical political posturing, ensuring that the “firehouse syndrome” comes to pass.