News Flash: Sequester Not the End of the World

March 1, 2013

First, the Obama administration and the liberal news media tried to tell us that cutting a small fraction of the federal budget for this year (a. k. a. “the sequester”) would inflict unspeakable misery on America.  Then they said, No, wait, never mind, you probably won’t even notice it!

Now that the much-anticipated day has arrived, Jim Geraghty has a hilarious round-up of satirical conservative reactions.  More under #OnTheSceneSequesterReport.

Joe Friday:  @iowahawkblog I am alone in a dark room…this phone is my only connection to any possible survivors….did anyone else out there make it?

John R. Wiley:  Hundreds injured when building contractor uses own judgement and sets stair rail at 36 1/2 inches. #OnTheSceneSequesterReport

John Hayward:  #OnTheSceneSequesterReport Bureaucrats reduced to panhandling streets of Washington with “Buddy, can you spare a $1T platinum coin?” pleas

If you haven’t followed every twist and turn of the Democrats’ goofy political theater—if, perhaps, this is the first you’ve even heard of the sequester—you’re not alone; according to a Pew-Washington Post poll, only 25% of Americans have been following it “very closely” (48% “not too closely” or “not at all closely”).

The sequester, which the federal government imposed on itself in 2011, was the Obama Administration’s idea, as Bob Woodward makes clear.  (Bob Woodward—you know, the reporter who, with Carl Bernstein, undid Republican president Richard Nixon.  He continues to have plenty of criticism for Republicans.  He is an editor of the liberal Washington Post.)  Woodward also explains that the deal President Obama agreed to was all spending cuts, no tax increases:

In fact, the final deal reached between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2011 included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequester in exchange for what the president was insisting on: an agreement that the nation’s debt ceiling would be increased for 18 months, so Obama would not have to go through another such negotiation in 2012, when he was running for reelection.

So when the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts.

The idea was that, because Washington has found it so difficult to restrain itself and spend less, Republicans and Democrats would (as part of the deal to increase the debt limit again in 2011) put in place automatic spending cuts (“sequestering” the funds), with the binding force of law, which would take effect around now (in a subsequent deal, Congress and the president have already postponed the sequester once from its original date), unless Congress could come up with better spending cuts in the meantime.  Of course Congress failed to reach any other agreement; so the original spending cuts are kicking in.  Wikipedia gives a little bit more of the history.

As the sequestration approached and it became clear that there would be no deal, Democrats and the mainstream news media (which are overwhelmingly liberal) called for panic.

. . . if Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research. . . .

Emergency responders like the ones who are here today — their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded.  Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced.  FBI agents will be furloughed.  Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go.  Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country.  Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off.  Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare for their kids.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.

And already, the threat of these cuts has forced the Navy to delay an aircraft carrier that was supposed to deploy to the Persian Gulf.  And as our military leaders have made clear, changes like this — not well thought through, not phased in properly — changes like this affect our ability to respond to threats in unstable parts of the world.

. . . This is not an abstraction — people will lose their jobs.  The unemployment rate might tick up again.

warned . . . that thousands of teachers around the country could lose their jobs as a result of the automatic across-the-board spending cuts . . . .

“As many of 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs,” Duncan warned on CBS News’ “Face The Nation.”  “There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices they can’t come back this fall.”

. . . “It just means that a lot more children will not get the kinds of services and opportunities they need,” Duncan said.

  • On February 28th, a Democratic congressman said (around 1:05) that the sequestration was “going to cause these job losses—over one hundred and seventy million jobs that could be lost”.  (Yes, that is more than 100% of the jobs in the country.)

Find more examples at Newsbusters.

Michelle Malkin lists and rebuts several such claims.

Importantly, while President Obama tried to portray himself as a helpless victim of the sequestration, he has a lot of control about where the cuts fall, as two men who have worked in past presidential administrations explain:  James Capretta and Tevi Troy, “Obama’s Sequester Scare Tactics: The cuts could be responsibly managed, but the president hasn’t tried.”

As to Obama’s claim (above) that sequestration would make him less able “to respond to threats in unstable parts of the world”, Bob Woodward calls this “a kind of madness that I haven’t seen in a long time” (video at NRO, transcript at Newsbusters).

In another ploy presumably intended to make the sequestration seem as unacceptable as possible, the Obama administration “released hundreds of [illegal aliens] from immigration detention centers around the country”, which even the liberal New York Times called “a highly unusual move” and noted that it “appears to be unprecedented in recent memory, immigration advocates said.”  (Interestingly, both parts of the New York Times story have been edited since Hot Air took that block quote—as usual, leaving no note that the story had been edited.  In the current version as of this writing, the Times says, immigration advocates said that the surge of recent releases — so many in such a short span of time — was extraordinary.”)

At some point, perhaps realizing that they would not be able to bully Republicans into caving in to their demands and the sequester would actually happen, Democrats and the news media started backpedaling some.

despite all the dire warnings and inability to reach an agreement, the spending cuts represent only a fraction of total federal spending. In fact, even with the cuts, the federal government will spend about $15 billion more this year than it spent last year. The spending cuts go into effect one week from today. But their impact won’t be felt right away. First, the government must give employees notice. Thirty days’ notice, George, before they can force them to take that unpaid day off a week. That means you’re really going to see the impact some time in April.

  • On February 27th, the president admitted that the sequestration was “not a cliff” and that “it’s conceivable that . . . a lot of people may not notice the full impact of the sequester.”  (Source: ABC News; video of the president at

Indeed, Duncan’s lack of seriousness about being scrupulously factual undercuts the administration’s claim that the cuts are a serious problem.

Duncan made this claim not once, not twice, but three times. Let this be a teachable moment for him: Next time, before going on television, check your facts.

the law does not create an immediate spending crisis or government shutdown like the ones that have loomed over so many of the previous budget fights in Washington. On Friday, the immediate impact on most Americans will be exactly nothing.

Federally funded day care programs will continue to operate. National parks will stay open. Government employees will continue to report to work. Border patrol agents will do their best to prevent illegal crossings. Experts do not expect the stock market to flinch.

Josh Kraushaar in National Journal surmises, “The White House’s strategy to exaggerate the immediate impact of the cuts has backfired, at least to some degree.”

Remember, as Ed Morrissey at Hot Air points out,

. . . it’s been a well-known deadline for months now, and yet it took until yesterday for Senate Democrats to offer an alternative to the sequester — and one they knew would be completely unacceptable to the House.  That was just a proposal, and a preliminary one at that, with no legislative language for consideration.

(Hyperlink in original.)  As Newsbusters also points out,

The House, led by Republicans, has passed two alternatives to sequestration that the President has avoided and the [New York Times] editorial fails to mention.

From that story in The Hill (from December):

House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) reacted sharply to Democratic complaints, and said Democrats at all levels have failed to offer their own cuts in the fiscal cliff talks.

Too bad that hasn’t changed.  As Speaker Boehner observed more recently, President Obama still has not offered “a credible alternative to the sequester”:

“Washington Democrats’ newfound concern about the president’s sequester is appreciated, but words alone won’t avert it,” he said. “Replacing the president’s sequester will require a plan to cut spending that will put us on the path to a budget that is balanced in 10 years. To keep these first responders on the job, what other spending is the president willing to cut?”

More on the sequester from National Review Online.

More from Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.

Investors Business Daily asks the question, “Is Obama Losing His Media Allies Over The Sequester?” Only those that are paying attention.

(Hyperlinks in original.)

Update (March 5th, 2013):  Mark Steyn weighs in on sequestration.

The sequester supposedly cuts $44 billion from the federal budget — or from the rate of growth of the federal budget. Whatever. $44 billion is about what the United States government borrows every nine days, so it’s not a lot. But it’s apparently responsible for everything that matters in American life.

. . .

Can you pierce the mists of time and go back all the way to the year 2007? Back then, federal spending was 40 percent lower than it is today. In a mere half-decade, has all that 40 percent gravy become so indispensable to the general welfare that not even a teensy-weensy sliver of it can be cut?

If you really believe that, then America is going to die, and a gullible citizenry willing to give this laughable charade the time of day will bear ultimate responsibility.

8 Responses to “News Flash: Sequester Not the End of the World”

  1. We need a spending freeze across the board. We should only continue with essential spending. After all, if it’s not essential, why are we spending money on it? Our children are getting further in debt before they are even born…

  2. Snoodickle Says:

    If you’re a decent American, which I know you to be, you have to acknowledge the fine job that President Obama has done reviving this economy.

    • You mean you have to acknowledge that President Obama has had a retardant effect on what would otherwise be the normal recovery of the economy on its own. This recovery has been far slower than those from previous recessions in recent American history:

      It’s no mystery why the economy is getting healthy again so slowly; as business owners have been telling us for years, Obama keeps prescribing the patient poison:

      As even your own NYTimes story points out, “As a result, the labor participation rate sank to 63.5 percent, a low for the current economic cycle.
      (emphasis added)

      What does that mean? Look at the numbers from the same government agency that the Times is citing:

      It means that so many people have given up looking for work that the proportion of the population counted as either employed or unemployed is lower than it has been at any time since President Obama took office. (Only people who have not given up looking for work are still counted as “unemployed” by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.) From the fourth quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2012, while the population grew from 236,739 to 244,169, the number of people employed only grew from 138,370 to 143,303. In other words, if the “labor force participation rate” were the same now as it was in 2009, the unemployment rate would be 9.5%.

      Don’t take my word for it, look at the Times’ own source agency and do the math for yourself.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        You just said all that and ignored the only real number that matters, 236,000 jobs added. If the economy is adding jobs, it is improving. The reason that unemployment is persistently high has nothing to do with governmental policies; it is a structural problem: population is growing too fast, and companies are becoming more efficient, and producing the same or greater output with fewer workers. Not to mention the jobs that aren’t being filled because workers (the same people who are giving up looking for work) aren’t trained to do them (something that President Obama has sought to address time and again). You’ve offered no new economic solutions other than slashing taxes and deregulating the economy. If you think that is the panacea for all our economic ills, you’re fooling youself.

      • I should have noted that the BLS is measuring in thousands.

        No, I don’t think there is such a thing as a “panacea” in public policy; that’s what liberals believe, not conservatives. That’s the problem.

  3. […] he also has his good points, and has achieved some real accomplishments.  For example, recall that Boehner managed to get the White House and the Senate to agree to the “sequester” budget restraints a couple of years ago, when both were controlled by […]

  4. […] accomplishments, Republicans in the House and Senate during the Obama administration managed the “sequester”—a deal that was all spending cuts, no tax increases—which has coincided with at least […]

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