Playing Politics With the Sequester

by Robert Maynard

It looks like most media outlets have joined Obama and company in playing politics with the looming sequester by blindly parroting the narrative that it would neccessarily result in job losses and other supposed calamities.  The latest to join in with this lemming like refusal to even question this narrative is our own Burlington Free Press, which weighed in on the hysteria with the following article:

Some 500 Vermont National Guard employees would see a 20 percent pay cut, along with cuts in equipment and training time.

Local Head Start programs would see a 5.3 percent cut in federal funding and are scrambling for information about whether that means they’ll have to end the school year early, reduce the number of families they serve, furlough employees or what. None of it seems fathomable to those running the programs.

Earlier this week, Hillsdale College Professoe of History Paul Rahe put what is going on into perspactive:

The next two or three weeks should be interesting. Barring some sort of last minute compromise, the sequester will come into effect. Given the size of the federal budget, the actual effects of cutting a few billion — not from the budget as it existed in 2012 but from its projected increase — should be trivial. But it is in the power of the President to make it painful; and, if this President is true to form, he will make it as painful as possible.

Everyone has seen this before at the state level. The legislature trims the projected budget, and the Governor, intent on expanding patronage, responds by declaring an emergency and by cutting access to state parks, library hours . . . you name it. The point is to rally the public against the legislature by cutting popular items while carefully protecting the pork that sustains the Governor’s political party.

This sort of irresponsibility is, I suspect, what we will soon see at the federal level. The difference is that Obama will be more brazen and audacious than any Governor has ever been. I will be flying to New York on Friday to give a talk at the annual meeting of the National Association of Scholars. I would not at all be surprised if there is a shortage of TSA personnel managing the security lines and if the Air Traffic Controllers are in such short supply that things grind almost to a stop. If my guess is right, it will be Obama’s calculation that he can soon bring John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and the Republicans in Congress to their knees. If he makes the attempt and they cave, you can kiss even the most modest attempt at fiscal responsibility goodbye. The name of the game for our President is to force a crisis that will eventuate in massive tax increases — first on high earners and then on the middle class more generally.

Last week Washington Post columnist Bob Woodward took on the Obama Administration over its refusal to admit that the sequester was their idea.  That report was followed by a wave of criticism of Woodward, a warning from the White House and a series of interviews. According to, in one of those interviews, Woodward became “the only high-profile reporter willing to say out loud that Obama has the power to choose where the cuts hit. In other words, all this White House fear-mongering is an audacious lie.”

Some conservative activists have speculated that the reason for the chicken little game is to divert attention away from the role that Obama’s policies are playing in the possibility that we are heading into another recession and shift the blame on the phantom sequester cuts.  I suspect that Obama is not the only one trying to divert the public’s attention.  Shumlin needs an excuse to cover any retreat that may be needed from Green Mountain Care when he finally comes clean on how we are going to pay for it.  The blame, of course, will be on federal budget cuts.

So, what we have here is a game of chicken little where politicians and the media are crafting a narrative of doom that will befall us if the sequester is allowed to take place.  In the midst of all this irresponsible demogogery, there is one sequester alternative proposal that would make the cuts needed without layoffs.  Needless to say, it is getting absloutely no attention by the media.  Last week Senator Rand Paul released a proposal that would “offset the impending sequester cuts, with a total savings of $85.75 billion annually.”

One thought on “Playing Politics With the Sequester

  1. We need a freeze of governement expenses. We should only continue with essential spending. After all, if it’s not absolutely necessary, why are we spending money on it? Our children are drowning in debt before they are even born…

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