Congratulations! You’ve managed to survive a whole week since sequestration hit. And despite all of the dire warnings that were issued, airplanes didn’t fall from the skies, prison gates weren’t thrown open, the indigent didn’t lose their food stamps and essential safety personnel didn’t lose their jobs.
In fact, nothing of consequence seems to have occurred — despite enough bluff and bluster on the topic to fill hot air balloons from one end of this country to the other.
At a press conference on March 1, President Barack Obama shed a few crocodile tears for janitors who have to clean up after Congress: “Starting tomorrow everybody here, all the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol. Now that Congress has left, somebody’s going to be vacuuming and cleaning those floors and throwing out the garbage. They’re going to have less pay. The janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut, and they’ve got to figure out how to manage that. That’s real.”
Only problem was, the sequestration had nothing whatsoever to do with any janitorial pay cut. Oh, there was a tiny pay reduction taking place. But that was because, as part of the tax-increase package the Administration won at year end, a payroll tax cut that had been in effect for two years was eliminated. Thanks, Obama!
This patent doctoring of the facts was too much for the official fact checker at The Washington Post, who gave the President “Four Pinocchios” — the worst rating — for this whopper. He concluded that “nothing in Obama’s statement came close to being correct.”
Of all the doomsday cries that were issued, the funniest has to have been the claim by California’s wacko Congresswoman, Maxine Waters, that the sequestration would mean 170 million Americans would lose their jobs. For that many people to be fired, 30 million more people would first have to be hired — since the total workforce in this country comes to just over 140 million.
In the video of the event, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi can be seen leaning over and whispering something to her colleague, who then restates the number of jobs that will be lost as 750,000. Even that number was absurdly high. A staff member later explains that what Waters meant to say was that the sequestration could cost 170,000 Americans their jobs.
All of which is a total bunch of malarkey, of course. Even with these so-called “devastating” budgets cuts (of course, they’re nothing of the kind), Federal spending will still be significantly higher this year than it was last year.
Did you realize that? Even if all $85 billion in spending cuts are actually made this year (something which I seriously doubt), the Federal budget for this fiscal year will still be several billion dollars higher than it was last year.
In fact, the total Federal budget of $3.553 trillion is a whopping $446 billion higher than it was when Barack Obama took office. Does anyone anywhere really believe that reducing the budget by a measly 2.3 percent will lead to an economic Armageddon? Of course, it won’t.
Even Obama finally seemed to realize that he may have been overstating things a bit. At a press conference last Friday, he said: “We will get through this. This is not going to be an apocalypse, I think, as some people have said.”
Of course, the “some people” who issued the grimmest forecasts were mostly folks who work for him, like Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who said he might have to furlough 5,000 air traffic controllers when the sequestration hit. Or Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who threatened to close or cut back hours at all of the National Park campgrounds. Or Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who said she might have to sideline 5,000 agents who are supposed to protect our borders.
Another member of the doomsday chorus was Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who claimed that some teachers had already begun receiving pink slips even before the budget cuts went into effect. When challenged to identify even one public school teacher who had lost a job because of sequestration, Duncan wasn’t able to do so.
But my favorite story along these lines featured reporter Bob Woodward. He has been a darling of the media elite ever since he and his colleague (and a then-anonymous source they called “Deep Throat”) helped bring down Richard Nixon during the national scandal known as Watergate.
Referring to Obama’s claim that because of the pending sequestration he couldn’t deploy a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, Woodward said, “That’s a kind of madness I haven’t seen in a long time.”
Things got a lot hotter between the reporter and the White House when Woodward had the nerve to repeat something we’ve said many times: “the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House.” In a column in The Post, Woodward went on to blame “months of White House dissembling” for eroding “any semblance of trust between Obama and congressional Republicans.”
This was too much for the Obama acolytes, who have come to expect tacit support, if not outright fawning, from reporters who cover national affairs. Press secretary Jay Carney said that Woodward’s column was “willfully wrong.” Then Obama aide David Plouffle got even nastier, saying that Woodward reminded him of a once-great athlete who was way past his prime.
Woodward himself added more fuel to the fire, when he appeared on “The Situation Room” on CNN and described the White House reaction. “They’re not happy at all,” he said. He went on to reveal that one senior Administration official told him, very clearly, “You will regret doing this.”
In a major article last week, The Post revealed what is really behind all of the harsh rhetoric and hard-ball maneuvering coming from the Obama Administration: “The goal is to flip the Republican-held House back to Democratic control, allowing Obama to push forward with a progressive agenda on gun control, immigration, climate change and the economy during his final two years in office.”
Obama has promised to help raise $50 million for something called Organizing for Action. This is a new group, led by Jim Messina, his 2012 campaign manager. Its goal is to defeat key Republicans in 2014 and make sure Nancy Pelosi returns as the Speaker of the House.
With Obama in campaign mode for the next two years, you can toss any hope of compromise and conciliation out the window. Their strategy to win control of the House is the blame game. And the kid gloves are off.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.