On with the sequester

Published 8:53 pm Wednesday, February 27, 2013

With the nation careening toward the new fiscal cliff of sequestration, political brinksmanship has reached epic levels, and it seems that nobody in Washington, D.C., is innocent.

Faced with the prospect Friday of taking the poison pill of automatic, across-the-board budget cuts of $44 billion in 2013, officials at federal government agencies have been rolling out the gloomiest predictions of the gloom-and-doom scenarios they can concoct as potential results of the policy.

President Barack Obama visited Newport News Shipbuilding on Tuesday to share his own dark scenario of the jobs that could be lost and programs that could perish as a result of indiscriminately “slashing” what amounts to less than 2 percent of total federal government spending. Some Republicans, meanwhile, have chimed in with their own frightening predictions of a nation that can no longer defend itself because of the cost of cuts to the Defense Department, and the Pentagon has added to the alarm with its recent decisions to rescind a carrier group’s deployment and postpone repairs and retrofits for a wide variety of strategically important military assets.


Email newsletter signup

The president has pointed the finger at Republicans, despite the fact that the idea for the sequester came from the White House, and Republicans point their own fingers at the president and congressional Democrats, despite the fact that sequestration would not be on the table if it had not been for Republican support for it during the debt-limit negotiations of 2011.

While average Americans might be scratching their heads and wondering how hard it could be to cut 2 percent or so from the projected growth in the spending of a government that is more than $16 trillion in the hole, the Washington, D.C., political class has turned true debt reduction into a game of gotcha, playing to the fears of Americans of all political persuasions in an effort to score points during the daily news cycle.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday that it had released several hundred illegal immigrants from deportation centers because it could not afford to hold them under its pending budget. The Federal Aviation Administration has warned that it will begin furloughing air traffic controllers and possibly closing control towers in April in order to balance its budget. And the Pentagon has scotched its strategic policy of having two carrier groups in the Persian Gulf at any given time for the same reason.

Each of those announcements is a cynical ploy to hold Americans hostage until they agree to pay the ransom of ever-increasing taxes in support of ever-increasing spending. The sequester might be indiscriminate, but the heads of the nation’s government agencies have broad latitude to make conscientious, intelligent decisions about how to trim their budgets without wreaking disaster and havoc. That so many have chosen not to do so just proves how deeply rooted our national sense of entitlement truly is.

Let the sequester go forward. Perhaps it will serve as a lesson in leadership to the failed political class in Washington, D.C. And maybe the next time the president visits the area, he’ll be pushing an agenda not based on the art of spreading fear and discontent.