Now that we have reached sequester reality one wonders if it, like the Mayan calendar hoax, will disappear with a shrug or whether voters will become irate over the scare tactics and egregious waste of tax payer dollars that continues. Fiscal conservatives are greatly helped by a number of revelations.
First and foremost, the voters have seen President Obama at his very worst. The Post editorial board observes, “Washington has reached a strange place indeed when the opposition party offers the president more control over spending — and he refuses it.” If the GOP is on the ball they will remind voters of this day in and day out. If nothing else, it may dissuade the White House from finding “horror” stories. For each one the Republicans’ reply is simply, “President Obama chose to inflict this pain.”
It is also the case that the obnoxious sense of entitlement of public employees has been exposed. The Post’s Marc Fisher describes the outrage government workers feel at the prospect of furloughs, cut backs or unemployment. In a neighborhood of $700,000 homes (a far cry from the average American’s neighborhood) he finds this sort of reaction to the sequester:
“It’s an extremely threatening and highly insulting condition to find myself in,” said a National Defense University professor who lives in Mantua and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of his high-level security clearance. “It’s one thing to hear the constant negative drumbeat directed at federal workers from people outside Washington. It’s another thing to have the threat of denial of livelihood.”
Have these people not a clue what the rest of the country has been going through? In the real world, unemployment is high, layoffs common, pay restricted and pensions (other than 401(k)’s nonexistent). The grousing, meant to evoke sympathy, demonstrates how clueless they are and only highlights the rarefied existence of civil servants. But not to worry, unlike the rest of us their salaries can’t be trimmed. (“rates of pay for civilian employees and rates of basic pay, basic subsistence allowances and basic quarters allowances for members of the uniformed services may not be reduced pursuant to a sequestration order”).
Along the same lines we see how utterly inept is the federal government in planning and managing its own expenses. Jim Pethokoukis points to an interview with David Blom, the CEO of OhioHealth, in Columbus, Ohio, who explains what responsible private sector firms have been doing:
Inside the organization, we’ve not really made a big deal of this because we actually budgeted for it. Last year when we did our budget, one of the assumptions was for sequestration to occur. … We’re very cost-efficient as an organization. It was just one other element as we were preparing for this fiscal year. … We do a five-year financial forecast every year, and we take very conservative assumptions on that forecast. So we’ve been thinking about Medicare cuts, Medicaid cuts, employers being a lot more cognizant of their own health care spending as we do our own planning. … Can we live with it? Yes. I think we’re able to live with it because we’ve anticipated it for some time.
But not the federal government. In fact Obama enacted a gag order preventing Cabinet heads from discussing it until the scare-the-living-daylights-out-of-the-rube operation began.
The take away for many voters might be that their political leaders are dishonest and that the only way to get these people to focus on fiscal restraint is shock therapy akin to the sequester. You can understand then why the White House has been hysterical for a couple weeks. Sequestration is a nightmare, but mostly for the liberal proponents of an ever-increasing welfare state. As Glenn Kessler puts it, “The administration may rue the day that it issued so many scary statistics with such specificity. If sequestration remains in effect for the rest of the fiscal year, reporters will certainly attempt to check whether the administration’s predictions came close to reality.”
And we also know why Bob Woodward’s refusal to play along with the president’s spin (on authorship of the sequester, on the extent it tied his hands) posed such a challenge to the imperial White House.