Today is Sequestration Day. Americans should be happy.
Last year during the debt ceiling fight, Democrats and Republicans in Congress came up with a novel idea. To satisfy the demands of conservatives who insisted on the whacky idea of paying down the national debt, Congress would create a bipartisan “super committee” consisting of members of both the House and Senate who would come up with a plan to make cuts or increase revenue to pay down the national debt.
President Obama joined in the negotiations and came up with the idea of sequestration. If the super committee failed, and most everyone privately thought it would, there would be automatic spending cuts in 2013 that would target sacred cows including defense and education — painful for both sides.
In fact, it is reasonable to believe, the sequestration cuts would be so painful to the sacred cows of both sides that once the super committee — stacked with congressmen and Senators who could never get the job done — failed, Congress could punt on sequestration and come up with new ideas to pay down the debt or find new shiny initiatives to distract Americans from a lack of debt reduction.
Barack Obama came up with sequestration. He negotiated it. Conservatives opposed it knowing that Republicans would ultimately cave and there would actually be no spending cuts. Then a funny thing happened. Republicans and their conservative base fell into a lovers quarrel over the direction of the party. The party establishment in Washington wanted to collaborate with the President, ignored the base’s demands to keep up the fight against ObamaCare, and started acting arrogantly against conservatives.
The base fought back. Republican leaders knew they had to do something to keep up appearances with the base. They decided they could not backtrack on sequestration. The cuts had to happen.
President Obama has long shown a propensity to be good at only one thing: the self-promotion of Barack Obama. He has not been good at governance. He has not been good at getting other Democrats elected. He has been a terrible negotiator. He failed to see what was happening in the party opposite. He structured a deal that made sequestration the law of the land without a literal act of congress to stop it.
Now we have arrived at the day most thought would never come.
In the run up to today, President Obama resorted to a campaign of fear mongering. He decided to make sequestration a blunt instrument. Instead of using his executive discretion to make careful cuts, he found ways to make the cuts appear disastrous, spooky, and painful for the American people. In the last week it would have come as no surprise to hear the president, given his increasing hyperbole about sequestration, to claim it would cause both erectile dysfunction and hospitals to finish off the infirm and elderly without so much as a visit to a death panel.
But the hyperbole did not work. Sequestration has arrived.
In all the talk, chatter, punditry, and hyperbole, one thing has been forgotten. This fight has never been about where to make cuts, but whether to make cuts at all. House Republicans offered several plans to alter the cuts. The Democrats would never consider them. The Democrats, instead, preferred raising taxes and, in sequestration, got one of their long held wishes of defense cuts.
The Democrats were never serious about real spending cuts, which is why the president could be so unserious at his campaign style rallies claiming sequestration would cause furloughs for teachers, policemen, and fire fighters, none of whom are even employed by the federal government.
The game now is predictable. Democrats will try to make the sequestration cuts as painful as possible on the American people. They will stop spending in areas that will do maximum harm and inconvenience to the lifestyle of the American citizen. They want Americans to think any cuts in spending at all are too disruptive.
The president and Democrats do not have to do this. They could make reasonable cuts. But if they do they will show spending cuts are possible without major disruption, pain, and inconvenience. That would give away the game.
The truth is, though, inescapable. Today the sun came up. Americans went about their daily lives. The federal government was open for business. The mail ran. The Mayans were not right.
Americans are reminded that Washington can, in fact, cut its budget and the world will not end. The only better reminder of this would be a government shutdown. We can only hope.