Welcome to the Obama States of America, an increasingly bizarre up-is-down realm in which a 2.2 percent spending cut supposedly threatens the nation's health and security but not its ability to dole out free money for home repairs.
The president Friday called the situation “dumb,” and he was right.
Of course, he also attempted to blame Republicans – and was wrong.
As the Washington Post's Bob Woodward has reported, Obama has tried to disavow any responsibility for the very thing he created. Woodward – whose reporting during the Watergate scandal helped bring down Richard Nixon – is hardly a Republican stooge. So when he writes that the president and his aides have attempted a Nixonian cover up of their responsibility for the mess they are now trying to exploit, it's a charge that should be taken seriously.
Especially now that Woodward is apparently on the Obama administration's version of Nixon's infamous “enemies list.”
According to Woodward, the idea that automatic spending cuts would take effect if a budget deal could not be reached originated not with Republicans or Congress but with former White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew and Obama's congressional relations chief Rob Nabors.
The sequestration bill did indeed pass through Congress with Republican support, and they are only marginally less culpable for the nation's budget mess than Democrats are. But the administration's predictions of dire consequences should sequestration take effect – everything from the release of illegal immigrants to fewer food inspectors to disastrous military cutbacks to the loss of 16,500 health-care jobs in Indiana alone – represented a brazen attempt to force Republicans into accepting tax increases Woodward points out were not part of the original deal.
And for that, Woodward says, he was warned by a top White House aide that he would “regret” his decision to . . . tell the truth.
In fact, it may be the president who most regrets sequestration. Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer points out, a leading opponent of spending cuts has suggested that the worst-case scenario for his position is that “the sequester hits and nothing bad really happens.”
In fact, something very good could come out of sequestration: the realization that the federal government really can't do everything for everybody – and shouldn't.
On its face, the doomsday scenario always was ludicrous. The $85 billion sequestration cut essentially forces a government borrowing 35 cents of each dollar it spends to borrow two cents less. In the real world, most of us have already had to cut that much, and more.
This is a crisis? Not so long as Washington can make $15,000 “forgivable” housing loans.
In 2011, the General Accounting Office noted that overlapping or redundant federal agencies – 44 jobs programs, 82 dealing with teacher quality – costs up to $200 billion per year. But, as Krauthammer notes, Americans are warned it is dangerous to cut an annual deficit from $1.33 trillion to $1.24 through spending cuts. Taxes must be increased instead.
It's only “fair,” after all.
It is a sin to covet what belongs to others, even if they're rich. And a government that would rather demonize or punish success than cut wasteful or unnecessary programs can get away with it only until people realize that the emperor – or the president – really is naked.
Washington's refusal to make relatively painless, sensible and obviously necessary cuts while threatening to cut programs people actually need is an old trick designed to protect people whose popularity depends on their ability to spend other people's money painlessly.
But as the sequestration debate has revealed, Washington is nothing but one big, fat, slobbering nudist colony. It is not a pretty sight.