As is the standard these days with so many low-information Americans, all they know is that something they are to dread, a sequester, is set to take effect on Friday, March 1, unless a deal is reached. And what makes so many Americans perceive that failure to reach a deal will usher in devastation of a catastrophic nature? Might is be because President Obama has been pounding home the horrendous effects of the sequester upon this nation, abetted by the mainstream media, should sequester become a reality on Friday.
Among many of Obama warnings: Furloughs of 800,000 civilian Pentagon employees; Air traffic controller furloughs resulting in three-hour waits at airports to clear security; 1,000 FBI agents laid off; fewer police and firefighters on the street; tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare for their kids, and thousands of teacher and educator layoffs. Still not satisfied with his veiled threats, on Tuesday (Feb. 16), Obama plans to head to a shipbuilding yard in Newport News, Virgina, (a defense heavy region) to highlight how potential job losses could negatively impact the economy of the region.
To make matters worse, besides believing Obama's many warnings, many Americans (among them the same low information individuals) have no idea how the sequester came about or what the terms of the sequester are.
As explained in a post by Dylan Matthews on February 20 at the "Washington Post":
The sequester is a group of cuts to federal spending set to take place on March 1 unless Congressional action is taken. Originally passed as part of the budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), it was intended as an incentive, because of the harsh nature of the cuts, to compel a select "Supercommittee" to reach a deal to cut 1.5 trillion over 10 years. When a deal couldn't be reached by Dec. 23 of 2011, President Obama, Vice President Biden and congressional leaders extended the deadline to January 1 of this year. A perceived configuration by lawmakers of other economic policies occurring at the same time, prompted lawmakers to move the sequester date to March 1.
The 2013 sequester includes $85.4 billion in cuts of discretionary spending across-the-board: 9.45 percent for defense and 8.2 percent for everything else. No programs are actually eliminated. The effect is to reduce the scale and scope of existing programs (slowing the growth) rather than to zero out any of them.
As such the cuts of $85.4 billion amount to a sliver of our nation's 2013 budget of $3.8 trillion (1,000 billion equals one trillion). The sequester cuts are even a tinier speck when pitted against America's $16 trillion economy, yet according to President Obama a cut of 1/3 of 1% of our 2013 domestic economy (2.5 cents on every dollar) will throw this nation into a tailspin. As of August of last year household income was down 8.2%, yet American people had to make do. To put the sequester in perspective, Sandy Hurricane relief amounted to $60 billion. Sequester is set at $85.4 billion. Does it sound reasonable for President Obama to be telling the American people that government can't do without a smidgen less?
What both angers and irritates Jonah Goldberg about the sequester, as stated in his "National Review" article of February 22: "If the sequester goes into effect, the federal budget for this year will still be larger than last year's ($3.553 trillion in 2013 vs. $3,538 trillion in 2012). With the sequester in effect, federal non-defense spending will still be 10 percent higher than it was on 2008." Wasn't it the aim of sequester to deal with the out-of-control national debt?
At $16 trillion and rising, our national debt is draining free enterprise and weakening this nation. Our current Outstanding Public Debt of the the United States, as of Sunday, February 24th, 2013, is $16,608,318,357,376.54. Every man, woman and child in the United States currently owes $54,664 for their share of the U.S. public debt and still our spending continues. Out of every dollar spent forty-six cents is borrowed by government.
Charles Krauthammer had this to say in a recent commentary in the "Wall Street Journal": "This is the most ridiculously hyped Armageddon since the Mayan calendar. In fact, it looks worse that the Mayan disaster, this, as you say, can be solved in a day, in an hour by allowing a transfer of funds. It's incredibly soluble, easily soluble. And the president is the one who ought to propose it. He won't, of course, because he is looking for a fight and not a solution."
As alluded to by Charles Krauthammer, President Obama could agree to allowing individual agencies to decide less painless ways to trim a few pennies out of every dollar instead of across-the board cuts as required by the sequester. This idea was entertained by ABCNews' Jonathan Karl and was asked of Ray LaHood in a briefing by LaHood to reporters about the sequester on Feb. 22. Upon Hood announcing that the Transportation Department was planning to furlough air-traffic controllers around the country causing delays up to 90 minutes for travelers, Karl said to Lahood: "You're got a big budget. Can't you find some other way to cut that without telling air traffic controllers to stay home?"
Just what is the fly in the ointment that seems to preclude that no deal will be reached and sequester will kick in on Friday? It is true that Republicans did vote for the sequester. It passed with 269 "yea" votes in the house (174 Republicans). In the Senate 28 Republicans joined nearly all Democrats, in a deal initially dreamed up by Jacob Lew of the White House, now Treasury Secretary nominee.
Republican are now in a bind and will be blamed for whatever they do. Without the bully pulpit Republicans have been unable to reach the public to stake out the core problem responsible for the sequester deal in the first place, this nation's unsustainable debt. As an added insult to injury, Obama is insisting on tax hikes to accompany tax cuts. Furthermore, although the biggest portion of our debt involves entitlement spending, entitlement reform is off limits to President Obama.
Meanwhile, Obama is going around convincing the American people to accept tax cuts by presenting the choice as one between reasonable revenue increases or catastrophic cuts that will let people die on the streets and allow poisoned food to sit on supermaket shelves.
How can this be so when the math of the sequester doesn't add up to the amount of misery Obama is prophesying for the American people? As portrayed in one of Aesop's Fables, "The Boy Who cried Wolf" ("To cry wolf" is an English idiom meaning to give a false alarm.), Obama countless times has gotten away with telling the American people that they are one step away from a fate that sounds worse than death. The moral of "The Boy Who cried Wolf" is that liars are not rewarded, for even when consistent liars do tell the truth, no one believe them after too many lies.
How many more times will Obama be able be able to cry wolf by using a made up scenario that plays upon the emotions of the American people to escape blame for what he has sanctioned, while succeeding in casting total blame upon Republicans in an ongoing ploy to eviscerate and vilify the Republican Party and its leadership? Will Obama ever be made to "pay the piper" for his deceptive rhetoric and policies. So far his has been a Teflon presidency.
In that Obama was re-elected last November despite his propensity to do and say anything to win elections and to gain public support on timely issues (and it continues with the 2014 mid-term elections in mind), points to a serious problem. Critical thinking skills are missing in so many Americans. This is why Obama, without fail, is able to fool much of the public by crying wolf, helped along by a fawning, complacent, in-the-tank, and lazy main stream press.
This brings to mind an old tale of my childhood about a hysterical hen who believes the sky is falling. In the story of "Chicken Little" the hysterical hen jumps to the conclusion that the sky is falling, an event not worthy of belief. The hysterical hen in turn succeeds in getting other animals to believe as she does with results that are unfavorable to all.
Too many Americans are like Chicken Little. They jump to conclusion using information that doesn't meet the smell test; accordingly, critical thinking skills are missing in so many Americans. This is why Obama, without fail, is able to fool much of the public by crying wolf, for when critical thinking skills (the ability to judge for oneself) are missing, people become like sheep and can be led by one whose rhetoric and policies are not what they seem to be.
Republicans must be wary, understanding that President Obama is forever campaigning (rather than leading), and that even now Obama is on the campaign trail to take back the House and keep control of the Senate in the 2014 mid-term elections.
The next big test after the Sequester will be how Republicans will handle the intense pressure to pass another continuing resolution before current government funding expires on March 27. Are Republicans up to the task and the challenge of facing President Obama and Democrats?
Posted at Illinois Review on Tuesday, February 26.