It is now an established truth in Washington that the Obama administration committed a horrible strategic error in hyping the impact of the sequester: Its impact was overblown, and partly as a result, Republicans have “won” the political battle over it. The sequester is little more than fodder for jokes about White House tours.
It’s true that in a number of specific instances the White House did falsely inflate the consequences of sequestration. But what if, on the broad strokes, it is actually true that the sequester cuts are doing real damage all over the country — damage that is only just beginning?
The Huffington Post set out to document 100 news articles showing the sequester taking a toll on local economies and communities nationwide. It wasn’t hard to do. HuffPo summarizes the situation this way:
The grips of sequestration are just now beginning to be felt and the effects are already quite dramatic.
Organizations and companies have begun laying off workers, while many more have decided not to staff vacant positions. Schools on military bases are contemplating four-day weekly schedules. Food pantries have closed, as have centers that provide health services. Farmers have been forced to go without milk production information, causing alarm in the dairy industry and the potential of higher milk prices. Workers at missile-testing fields are facing job losses. Federal courts have closed on Fridays. Public Broadcasting transmitters have been shut down. Even luxury cruises are feeling the pinch, with passengers forced to wait hours before debarking because of delays at Customs and Immigration. Yes, sequestration is creating the possibility of another poop cruise.
Meanwhile, Buzzfeed documents the tale of a 39-year-old army reservist and combat veteran who saw his Ft. Meade desk job pay deeply slashed — and is now contemplating going back to war to improve his situation.
The Republican position on the sequester has been that these cuts are a victory for the party because Republicans wanted cuts all along. But at what point does this position become unsustainable? Even some Republican officials are beginning to complain about sequester cuts they don’t like — cuts to obscure programs most Americans have never heard of. At the same time, they have embraced the general goal of the Paul Ryan budget — which, if it were ever actually implemented, would wipe out huge swaths of just the sort of government programs Republican officials have now discovered they like, thanks to the sequester.
It is certainly possible that the sequester’s impact will be too diffuse and scattered to have enough of a political impact to force Republicans back to the table to deal. It is also possible that the sequester’s overall damage to the economy won’t be as bad as Dems have predicted. But the running GOP claim that this situation is already a victory for them deserves to be subjected to more skepticism and scrutiny. And so does the farcical sight of GOP officials lamenting individual cuts while chest-thumping about their vow to “balance the budget in 10 years” via a fiscal blueprint that would probably cause much of the federal government to disappear.
Here’s hoping more news orgs will buck the Beltway narrative and report out the realities of spending cuts of this magnitude, as HuffPo did.
* Lindsey Graham moves carefully on immigration: The New York Times has an interesting on-the-ground look at Graham’s delicate efforts to sell immigration reform to wary constituents in conservative South Carolina. Graham faces a far more difficult selling task than Marco Rubio, given his home state, yet Rubio is the one who keeps carefully distancing himself from the emerging compromise, as he is playing to a national right wing audience.
* Opposing Obama on everything is “good politics”: Also in the story about Graham, note the suggestion that he made a huge stink about Benghazi and the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary to give himself cover with the right for supporting immigration reform. This quote from Graham is instructive:
“Anytime you challenge the president, Obama, it’s good politics.”
Points for candor, Senator.
* Marco Rubio readies his escape hatch on immigration: Rubio’s office reiterates that unless the Congressional process is exactly to his liking, dammit, he just may not be able to support the emerging immigration reform compromise. As noted here yesterday, Dems have already promised a typical committee and amendment process; this is the third escape hatch Rubio has given himself to bail on reform if the heat gets too intense.
* Rubio’s shifting efforts to shift blame: Also from the above Rubio story, this is amusing:
He ascribes Congress’ past failures to approve immigration policy changes to a rushed legislative process.
* Connecticut pols agree on sweeping gun measures: Three months after the Newtown massacre, Connecticut state legislators have agreed upon a very tough package of gun law reforms, including universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, and state-issued eligibility certificates for guns and ammo.
The agreement is a reminder that maintaining intensity of public opinion on the gun control side, and not just on the “gun rights” side — which obviously was more likely to sustain itself in the state where the shooting occurred — is a necessary ingredient to force legislators to act on guns.
* Obama’s questionable statistic on guns: Glenn kessler raps President Obama for continuing to claim that “as many as 40 percent” of gun sales occur without a background check. The stat is based on old data and the real number is more likely closer to 20 percent. There’s no need to use the “40 percent” number — the case can easily be made for gun reform without it.
* And one town’s creative “gun rights” experiment: A small town in Georgia has passed a new measure requiring residents to own guns. Though the ordinance won’t be enforced on anyone who objects, the rationale offered by its chief sponsor is particularly noteworthy:
“I likened it to a security sign that people put up in their front yards. Some people have security systems, some people don’t, but they put those signs up,” he said. “I really felt like this ordinance was a security sign for our city.”
Should be interesting to see how this turns out.