The Sequester Pester
It’s kind of fascinating to see President Obama pursue a strategy of rallying the public in opposition to the sequester, because I think most observers would agree that the American people have a severe case of Washington Crisis Fatigue.
The president’s rallying cry is, “Rise up and call Congress to stop this!” And the American people look at what seems like a rerun of previous spending fights, shrug, and say, “meh.”
I’ll turn to an unexpected source, Megan Carpentier of Raw Story, to set the stage of our national exhaustion and cynicism:
The latest fight — over what is termed “sequester” inside the Beltway and which politicos and reporters alike have repeated ad infinitum without much explanation to their constituents and readers — is in fact just another continuation of the ongoing budget fights over which Republicans and Democrats have threatened government shutdowns for more than two years.
Eighteen months ago, after months of threats and posturing, President Obama suggested and Congressional Republicans and Democrats agreed to create a magical deadline to get their [stuff] together or else be forced to explain a rash of immediate spending cuts to the American people. Both sides agreed to the deal, figuring that the other would face a humiliating defeat in the 2012 elections; instead, the elections insured a continuation of the dysfunctional status quo and the continued unwillingness of anyone to behave like a political leader rather than a political brawler.
And yet, somehow, very few people outside the echo chamber can be forced to care. Why? Because we’ve all seen this little one-act play out before, enough times that it’s hard to take it seriously. There’s no dramatic filibuster where a Senator stands for hours reading from a cookbook or The Federalist Papers, no video footage of GSA workers being locked out of their offices or postal sorting machines sitting idle, no actual effect on anyone’s day-to-day life, the political rhetoric on the Hill or the situation of the federal budget. We all assume that they’ll sit around pointing fingers and calling one another names like a bunch of school kids until the very last minute, when they’ll hammer out another reasonably foolish compromise that keeps the government open for another six months without solving the fundamental dispute, pat themselves on the back and go back to naming post offices and arguing about gun control and trying to land tortured one-liners on the Sunday talk shows until they’re forced to repeat the posturing all over again.
It’s tiresome, it’s foolish, it’s (deliberately, one starts to assume) difficult for most Americans to follow, let alone care about, and it does nothing to solve any of the varying problems identified as such for either side. And the more they do it, they more they’ll earn the disapproval and disrespect of Americans on all sides of the political spectrum.
One wonders if we’ll get another Chris Christie tirade in the coming days, when you see the fact that Sandy relief funding may be cut as a result of this:
In a statement, Rep. Michael Grimm said, “President Obama has no one to blame but himself for the consequences of sequestration. He proposed it and he insisted on it. As a result, we are faced with reckless, across-the-board cuts that will hurt important local programs, cost us jobs and decrease the amount of Sandy relief funding we fought hard to move through Congress.”
“Shifting the blame to Congress is a shameless political tactic,” added Grimm (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn). “The House has twice passed legislation to replace the president’s job-killing sequester with targeted, common-sense cuts. I voted for both proposals; however, the Senate refused to act on them. If the president is serious about finding a solution, he will reach out to Congress to identify responsible ways to cut $85 billion, something the House has already done … No one should be talking about another round of tax hikes, when sequestration can be easily avoided through responsible cuts.”
By the way, one reason nobody believes the “CRISIS!” rhetoric can be found in the sentence that immediately follows Grimm’s remarks: “Obama’s remarks came a day after he returned to Washington from a three-day golfing weekend in Florida.”
The sequester must be stopped… but only after 18 holes with Tiger!
Charlie Spiering reminds us that back in November 2011, Obama was pledging, “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.”
Here’s projection of the economic fallout of the sequester: GDP growth in 2013 shrinking from 2.6 percent to 2 percent, cost roughly 700,000 jobs (including reductions in armed forces), pushing the civilian unemployment rate up ¼ percentage point, to 7.4 percent. The MacroAdvisers urge, “By far the preferable policy is a credible long-term plan to shrink the deficit more slowly through some combination of revenue increases within broad tax reform, more carefully considered cuts in discretionary spending, and fundamental reform of entitlement programs.”