The political gamesmanship surrounding sequester underscores everything that is wrong with politics today.
First, sequester is NOT the end of the world as we know it. Even if those mandated budget cuts occur, it does NOT mean that government, essentially, is shut down. It does not mean the end of services. It does not mean meat, or drugs, would go unexamined, and, thus, would disappear from store shelves. It need not mean the air traffic control system must shut down. It does not mean the military would not be able to defend the United States.
It DOES mean government must start managing its money - and end non-essential activities. It does mean there might be far fewer $1,000 hammers purchased by the Pentagon. It probably means there will be far fewer colonels acting as aides to far fewer generals roaming the corridors of the Pentagon. It does mean priorities must be set. It does mean some things will no longer be affordable - and it does, very likely, mean that some people, particularly those employed in government, will lose their jobs.
That's the reality. That's why sequester was chosen as a last resort. And it is why the nation finds itself sitting on sequester's doorstep right now: Government has failed. It has failed to control spending. It has failed to find a way to cut spending. It already has increased taxes, yet the Obama administration says those tax hikes are not enough, more are needed. Congress remains impotent, frequently on vacation, but never able to act.
Americans should be thankful that in a rare moment President Obama and his administration pushed the option of sequester as a means of forcing government to come to terms with its out-of-control spending.
Yes. President Obama. Not Congress. Not congressional Democrats. Not congressional Republicans.
Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, an associate editor of the Washington Post, writes in a recent column published in the Post:
"My extensive reporting for my book 'The Price of Politics' shows that the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of (then White House chief of staff Jack) Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors - probably the foremost experts on budget issues in the senior ranks of the federal government.
"Obama personally approved of the plan for Lew and Nabors to propose the sequester to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. They did so at 2:30 p.m. July 27, 2011, according to interviews with two senior White House aides who were directly involved."
Yet now, the President warns of the most dire consequences of sequester, should it be allowed to happen. His latest scare tactic: More than a hundred air traffic control towers could be closed and travelers could expect long flight delays beginning in April.
He's not alone in making threats. All sides in the debate are guilty. But none seem willing to admit there are alternatives to the threats being made to intimidate the public, voters and taxpayers alike, into begging for higher taxes so that government, despite all of its excess, can be saved.
Private companies, responding to difficult economic circumstances, repeatedly have been forced to reduce their workforce. They have been forced to do it without compromising the products they sell. They have been forced to reduce employee benefits. Workers, each of you, know you have been expected to do more for less for a long time now.
No less can be expected, demanded, from government. And it can be done without ending, r even seriously restricting, any and all essential services.
It is true that the resulting cuts might slow economic growth initially, but so, too, has the return of the temporary 2 percent Social Security tax cut, and so, too, will soaring gasoline prices, as the high cost of oil ripples through the economy. Those are painful but inescapable realities. Binge spending has been a government reality for far too long; of course there will be pain in ending it, but far less pain than the nation will feel if it is allowed to continue.
Reject the scare tactics. Demand that government face economic reality. Demand that it accept the spending cuts by targeting ALL non-essential services and employees. If necessary, adopt across-the-board pay cuts. Private enterprise has been forced to do so. Cut benefits. Private enterprise has been forced to do so.
Reject the scare tactics. Hold government accountable.