The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

What If You Manufactured a Crisis, and No One Panicked?

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On Friday, March 1st, 2013, the Second Mayan Apocalypse will occur – or so President Obama might have you believe.  That is the day when the budget sequestration – the failsafe mechanism of forcing cuts to federal outlays, cuts deemed to be so drastic in their consequences that certainly no one would allow them to actually occur, but agreed to nonetheless during the 2011 budget negotiations – will finally take effect.  To hear the president tell it, life as we know it will cease to exist.  Well, he doesn’t go quite that far, but he does draw a drastic picture. (The melodramatic overtones call to mind the dire warning of Bill Murray’s character – Dr. Peter Venkman – to the New York City Mayor in the movie, Ghostbusters:  “This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions…  Human sacrifice!  Dogs and cats living together!  Mass hysteria!”) Interestingly, the president’s own left-wing base is starting to caution against “crying wolf,” for fear of the impact of such histrionics on the longer-term spending rationale for their own special interests.  According to a recent item in the Washington Post, “some White House allies worry the slow-moving sequester may fail to live up to the hype... if voters react with a shrug, congressional Republicans will have won a major victory in their campaign to shrink the size of government.  Instead of cancelling the sequester, the GOP will likely push for more.” “The good news is, the world doesn’t end March 2. The bad news is, the world doesn’t end March 2,” said Emily Holubowich, a Washington health-care lobbyist who leads a coalition of 3,000 non-profit groups fighting the cuts. “The worst-case scenario for us is the sequester hits and nothing bad really happens.  And Republicans say:  See, that wasn’t so bad.” “It would be a big problem for the White House if the sequester came and went and nobody really noticed anything. Then people will start saying, ‘Well, maybe we can cut spending,” said John H. Makin, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who penned a recent Wall Street Journal piece titled “Learning to Love the Sequester.” More important is this often-overlooked detail: even after all is said and done, despite all of the sturm und drung emanating from the White House, spending will still be greater next year.  Former Senator Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) highlights this reality in his Wall Street Journal piece this morning, recounting the similar hysterics when the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings sequestration took effect in 1986.  “Even after the sequester, the federal government will spend $15 billion more than it did last year, and 30% more than it spent in 2007,” writes Gramm.  “Government spending on nondefense discretionary programs will be 19.2% higher and spending on defense will be 13.8% higher than it was in 2007.” In other words, if you follow the president’s logic concerning the impact of post-sequester spending levels, then the world must have already come to an end – in 2007, when spending levels equaled those envisioned after March 1st.  Apparently, we just didn’t realize it.  Either that, or we are all post-apocalyptic “Walking Dead” zombies. There you have it.  Much like December 21st, 2012 – which came and went, pretty much without incident, despite the Mayans’ centuries’ foretold doomsday prediction – I am willing to bet that March 1st will be as memorable as January 1st, 2000: remember Y2K?  And, by the end of Ghostbusters, even New York City was spared.  With the exception of a big blob of goo remaining from the eradication of the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man, the metropolis got back to business-as-usual.  Good or bad, I imagine that the same will be true of Washington, D.C.

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