Common Cents: Sequester Preppers

| February 21 2013

Common Cents: Sequester Preppers

Y2K, the Mayan apocalypse …both are overblown doomsday scenarios that never quite panned out. Sequestration is just weeks away, and Washington has reverted to painting Americans a picture of the crisis that awaits them on the other side. The White House is making the case that the economic impact will spell disaster. However, if a three percent cut from the federal budget is all that stands between our economy and catastrophe, why won’t Washington offset the cuts and sidestep this crisis? When all is said and done, “sequestration” may be added to the long list of apocalypses that never happened. But until we cut spending, the real day of reckoning is still lurking.

AS DEADLINE LOOMS, WHITE HOUSE WARNS OF “DRACONIAN, DRASTIC EFFECTS” OF SEQUESTRATION

President Obama: ”If Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place … it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job creating investments in education and energy and medical research.” (Editorial, “President Armageddon, The Wall Street Journal, 2/20/13)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “There is no way to do this – $85 billion over that short a window of time – there is no way if you follow the law, written by Congress, that implementation of these cuts would not have the draconian, drastic effects that the President talked about.” (White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, White House Press Briefing, 2/19/13) 

BUT THIS TIME, NOT EVERYONE IS BUYING INTO THE DOOM AND GLOOM

The Washington Post: “[T]he idea that a 5 percent cut will bring Armageddon is too much to stomach.” (Matt Miller, “Dumb and Dumber on the Sequester,” The Washington Post, 2/20/13)

  •  “On Defense, The Case For Cataclysm Seems Even Crazier.” “When our defense budget has doubled from $350 billion to $700 billion in the last decade, and is orders of magnitude larger than that of any potential rival, a 7 or 8 percent trim can’t mean the sky must fall.” (Matt Miller, “Dumb and Dumber on the Sequester,” The Washington Post, 2/20/13)
  •  Making Cuts Seem Calamitous Is The “Oldest Trick In The Book.” “That’s not to say that determined administrators can’t choose to make a 5 percent cut seem calamitous by cutting visible, important things. That’s the oldest budget con in Washington. … But to act as if the sequester means the end is nigh is to take exaggeration to new levels even by Washington standards.” (Matt Miller, “Dumb and Dumber on the Sequester,” The Washington Post, 2/20/13)

Washington Examiner: But The Cuts Are Equivalent To A Rounding Error. “Over a decade, the $1.2 trillion in scheduled cuts are barely more than a rounding error when compared with the $48 trillion the federal government would otherwise spend, according to the Congressional Budget Office.” (The Washington Examiner Editorial Board, “Examiner editorial: Obama’s scare talk on spending cuts,” The Washington Examiner, 2/19/13)

CBS News: Decade-Long Nightmare “Not Likely”: “[A]s the U.S. economy careens toward its second ‘cliff’ in two months, realization that a third waits at the base of the crevasse has moved some to observe that while sequestration is far from an ideal way to budget, the darkly-cloaked March 1 is not likely to yield the decade-long nightmare that has attracted handwringing by Democrats and Republicans alike.” (Lindsey Boerma, “Will sequestration really be that bad?” CBS News, 2/20/13)

Reuters“Senior Administration Officials On Tuesday Had No Concrete Examples Of What Would Immediately Befall The Country When The Cuts Begin.”(Richard Cowan and David Lawder, “U.S. government won’t fall apart on ‘sequester’ day of reckoning,” Reuters, 2/19/13)

PAINTING DIRE WORST-CASE SCENARIOS IS NOTHING NEW IN WASHINGTON

Debt Ceiling Flashback: “Obama said Congress’ failure to raise the government’s borrowing limit would delay payments of benefits to veterans and Social Security recipients.” (Jim Kuhnhenn, “Obama: Debt ceiling fight threatens SS checks,” Associated Press, 1/13/13)

The Associated Press: “Highlighting a threat to the most popular products of the government is a time-honored Washington tactic for turning up the heat on the other side to negotiate and settle.” (Calvin Woodward, Spin Meter: Obama and his Social Security Warning,” Associated Press, 1/15/13)

Firemen First: Washington Has A Long History Of Making Empty Threats To Avoid Spending Cuts. “The political predilection for hyperventilated worst-case scenarios was dubbed the Firemen First principle in 1989 by Charles Peters of The Washington Monthly, and is known in other quarters as the Washington Monument ploy. It’s the threat that a budget cut will force firemen and police to be laid off, or the iconic monument to be shut, when in fact there are other ways to save money.” (Calvin Woodward, Spin Meter: Obama and his Social Security Warning,” Associated Press, 1/15/13)

WHITE HOUSE: CUTTING JUST THREE CENTS ON THE DOLLAR “NOT IMPOSSIBLE”

The $85 Billion Across-The-Board Cuts In The Sequester Amount To Less Than 3 Cents On The Dollar.  (CBO, “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023,” 2/5/13)

White House Chief of Staff Agrees Finding Less Than Three Percent of Savings Is “Not Impossible.”

JONATHAN KARL: “But help me understand because we have a budget. This is … look at exactly what this is. $85 billion this year out of a budget of 3.8 trillion. You can see just the small slice and then if you look at the sequester over ten years we’re talking about 1.2 trillion out of $47 trillion in projected government spending. Is it really impossible to find less than 3% of savings in a federal budget without making those kind of horrible cuts?” DENIS MCDONOUGH: You know what, it’s not impossible…” (ABC’s “This Week,” 2/17/13)

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