"I love it when a plan comes together!"
-The A-Team's Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith
. . .
During last fall's third presidential debate, President Obama blamed sequestration on the GOP Congress. "It is not something that I've proposed," the President said. "It is something that Congress has proposed."
At the time, sequestration was not our sole political Crisis du Jour. We still had the fiscal cliff ahead. Yet, in the second term of an administration that has thrived on the fabrication of one crisis after another, here we are.
Was the president completely truthful when he denied responsibility for sequestration? No. According to Bob Woodward's new book, "The Price of Politics," the idea for sequestration originated in The White House.
It was the brainchild of then chief of staff, Jack Lew (soon to be your Treasury Secretary) and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors. In fact, Obama personally approved the plan. Following, Lew and Nabors proposed sequester to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, which they did, at 2:30 pm, July 27, 2011, according to interviews with senior White House aides. The rest, as they say, is not their fault!
Further, in the final deal struck by Vice President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2011, it included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequester. In exchange, the president received an agreement that the nation's debt ceiling would be increased for 18 months, relieving the president of any further negotiation in 2012 - freeing him to run for reelection.
With the election won, the president now requests a substitute for the sequester that includes not just spending cuts, but also new revenue.
This, after the nation's highest earners, not to mention anyone else who pays taxes, were recently handed tax increases. The president is now arguing the those in the top income brackets can and should pay more. Yet, that was not the original deal.
Woodward, of The Washington Post, likens the president's maneuverings to "moving the goal posts."
Today, you'd think the president had never even heard of the term by the way he lays all blame elsewhere.
Why would the president be less than honest when discussing his role in the current budgetary crisis? Why does a bear shit in the woods?
The United States is mired in a painfully slow, four year economic recovery that oft resembles anything but. Unemployment remains at nearly 8 percent. College graduates are moving in droves back into childhood bedrooms. Heightened regulatory requirements threaten to place further constraints on the private sector, and the related costs will be passed along to Main Street.
The bloom is off the rose.
Yet, that has not kept the White House from a perpetual state of crisis campaigning. Appearing at sporting events. Local community gatherings. The Academy Awards. Blaming all on the GOP's insensitivity towards the working class. Blaming the current lack of jobs on Bush, even as G.W. has remained 1,500 miles from D.C. for the last four years.
Most everything in this nation has grown slightly smaller the last four years. Most everything, that is, except government and debt.
This year's Federal budget will be nearly 25 percent bigger than it was in 2008, the year before President Obama took office. While private sector job rolls continue to shrink, the Federal government employs a half a percent more than it did in January of 2009.
Even as the president and his colleagues discuss the need for shared sacrifice, Washington D.C. has become the wealthiest city in the U.S. Richer than Silicon Valley, Greenwich, Connecticut and Boca Raton, Florida. Were George Washington alive, he'd likely flee for England.
Under this administration, the average Federal worker (one-sixth of D.C.'s population) earns $126,000. While the rest of the nation shares the sacrifice, government salaries in the capital have risen. Click Here...
Meanwhile, the President fear mongers over the very baby to which he gave birth. Sequestration? Batten down the hatches! Head for the storm cellar! We're going to have to scrape by on 98 percent of our $3.6 trillion budget!
Tax and spend types have long thrived on the ability to reallocate the nation's wealth to special interest groups and other supporters in order to remain atop their perches. So, even a two percent decrease is painful.
Yet, the President and his colleagues have the ability to choose which areas receive less. That said, they'd rather not be forced to make those decisions. Rather not be seen as the bad guys. They'd rather toss the blame anywhere but where it should be. While these reductions could be surgical, they'll instead be done with a meat cleaver.
Rahm Emanuel, the President's previous chief of staff, was heard to say, "Never let a crisis go to waste."
Emanuel must be proud. Not only did the Obama administration originate the sequestration crisis, but now they are tossing the blame around like parade taffy.
The true losers will not be the tax payers - this is only the beginning of such spending cuts, and does not go far enough. Yet, this isn't the means to make them. But, that's what happens when the administration is more concerned with winning the weekly PR cycle than doing the right thing. Like suggesting sensible, coolly analytical, long-term cuts.
The sovereign debt of the United States now equates to $16.5 trillion. Throw in municipal and financial debt and you get roughly $57 trillion. Add the Fed's balance sheet and you're at $60 trillion. When you consider that the U.S. economy amounts to $14.3 trillion, you begin to see the problem. The nation's debt is 4.2 times the size of the economy.
While we like to think that the world's reserve currency printer has alternatives not available elsewhere, that these problems will eventually vanish, that is not the case. It was not the case in 2008. It will not be the case in 2013, 2014 or whenever the next crisis occurs. Only, the Federal government does not care. The Federal government was strengthened by the last crisis.
Government officials like to talk about the need for fiscal responsibility, the need for decisive action, but no responsible action is ever taken. And when small spending cuts are forced upon them (self-forced, that is), they act like half the nation is being marched off a cliff by their political opponents.
Reality and responsibility have left the beltway. Hypocrisy runs amuck.
Of course, there are real victims here. Like the small, university-based research labs forced to let go of their Ph.D. staffs. The general public, which will be forced to go without the research breakthroughs these labs may have developed. The cures, life extenders and raw hope these teams often create.
So that D.C.'s Federal employees can rank as the best paid in the nation. So that the administration can award free cell phones and 250 minutes per month to those already receiving certain government benefits. So that the Navy can have 234 golf courses around the world. So that the government can pay GE and Rolls-Royce $3 billion to develop the same fighter jet engine. So that a tree census and inventory can be completed in Henderson, Nevada. So that the government can pay $120 million in retirement and disability benefits to dead Federal employees. So that we can spend $10 million on the Pakistani version of Sesame Street. Just for starters.
Money is power. The more you have, the more you can dole out, and so the more power you can amass.
Consider our special forces in Afghanistan. Why do they hand out bags of cash to local warlords? Because in a situation where the major players just as soon ignore if not despise them, the special forces operators, essentially strange men in a strange land, know that money can buy favor, loyalty and friendships.
Politicians are no different. Like the special forces operators overseas, politicians hand out cash. Your cash. How else can they win the hearts and minds of the electorate?
Hypocrisy. The act of saying one thing and doing another. The state of federal politics is its purest physical manifestation. People in nice suits. Speaking from well-honed talking points. Flying in private planes, funded by you, the taxpayer. Who in return are promised the world, even as they cannot afford a family vacation.
"The populace cannot understand the bureaucracy," said George Bernard Shaw, "It can only worship the national idols."
In other words, so long as the bureaucracy, including its faults, foibles and frailties, exist just beyond the national conception, we shall slowly be enslaved by its idols, drowning in their fealty, corruption and greed.