Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Sequester: "Much Ado About Nothing"

"Much Ado About Nothing" was a play by William Shakespeare, but even then, his play was about something: the conflict of older lovers reconciling their aging options, plus younger loves embracing the future, plus the intrigue of shamed integrity vindicated in the final act.

At first glance, the title of Shakespeare's play would be a great lead in for the "sequester" non-drama. From January first, when Congress and the President agreed to kick the sequester to March first, to the day itself, ongoing budget talks between chattering political classes, the battering media talking heads, and the flattering of special interests have not ceased to breathe fire and brimstone these days, too. Never has there been so much hoopla about the gloom and doom "sequester", or the inability of Congress to make the necessary reforms to stop the cuts, or at least to make them smarter.

For the record, in Washington politics, there are no "good cuts." Economist Milton Friedman, referring to an anecdote from President Richard Nixon's attempts to make cuts in the federal budget, illustrated the difficulty of removing any government programs. The Federal Tea Tasters Board, an anachronism from the 1890s, seemed like any easy cut to make, but if just one Congressman, or one interest group, raises any objection, then the rest of the Beltway just gives away and lets the program roll on, wasting taxpayer dollars.

In a nutshell, or a molehill, anyone with political clout and a microphone has cried aloud: The sequester will bring upon the land death and destruction. Schools will close, the ghosts of Christmases past and present will peer out. Our enemies, at home and abroad, will break out of the cracks and crevices to eat our children and rape our women. Congresswoman Maxine Waters even claimed that 170 million of Americans will lose their jobs.

"Much Ado about Nothing", indeed!

The sequester was President Obama's idea, one which Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward is constantly reminding people, even though Obama press agents suggested, rather obliquely, that Woodward would "regret" his line of truth-telling. With the assistance of FBI Mark "Deep Throat" Feld, Woodward helped bring down the Nixon Administration. Woodward's "Big Deal" public reporting may bring down the Obama Administration, which has gone out of its way to scare the American people about the cuts that will sear through every department, cuts that were originally supposed to be so painful, that Congressional leaders and the President would have come together and form some kind of compromise.

President Obama failed to step up. President Obama owns this economy. He owns his failing foreign policy, and he owns the "devastating" cuts of the sequester, which are piecemeal in the face of spending twice that of "the first black President" Bill Clinton, and rivals the spending under "Big Government" conservative George W. Bush. President Obama refused to take action on the Bowles-Simpson action plan. He authorized the sequester, yet now he wants to back-away from it, yet for the year that the cuts remained in place, he did nothing. Republicans, and now the majority of Americans, have long understood the need of Washington to cut the spending. The entitlements have not been touched, but they will not go away.

House Speaker John Boehner has made the case time and again: revenue increases are off the table. It's time to cut the spending, and it's time for the Democratic-controlled US Senate to "get off their ass" and get something done. If President Obama refuses to engaged in any action that will save the financial future of this country, and only wants to play the blame game, then he will have only himself to blame for his party's losses in 2014. Already, Obama has set his sights on taking back the House, when his Party has more seats to defend in the Senate once again (twenty-one), compared to the Republicans (eleven). The GOP Establishment sank 2012 chances of major pick-ups in red states like Montana and North Dakota, where the Party standard-bearer, Mitt Romney did more to depress the Republican vote than Obama did to bring in the Democratic vote.

Continuing resolutions for funding the federal government remains an undecided issue, and will become another loss for the President, should he refuse to flex any muscle to cut spending. The sequester was "Much Ado About Nothing", while President has demonstrated his willingness to do nothing. 2014 is looming, and heavier than ever as President Obama loses more and more of his clout in Washington among Congressional members of his own party, who plan on staying in office long after he leaves on January 20, 2017. Of the twenty-one Democrats in the Senate up for reelection, at least seven of them are in red states, where this time around Romney will not be running down GOP chances.

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