The sequester is coming, the sky is falling, air travel will become unsafe, public safety first responders will be cut, teachers will be laid off, national defense will be disrupted and children's lunch programs will be cut!
In short, as stated by the late cartoonist Walt Kelly's Pogo Possum, "We have met the enemy and it is us" is the administration's dire warning.
Admittedly, the sequester, or Budget Control Act of 2011, was, and remains, a bad idea, conceived in haste and doomed to failure from day one, as neither side would budge one iota. Yes, it was the president's idea; however, no one is blameless inasmuch as both houses of Congress passed it — an act doomed to fail —and kicked the can down the road.
In a nutshell, this act provided for a "supercommittee of Democrats and Republicans to achieve agreement — if accord was not realized, automatic cuts would be levied with the Department of Defense absorbing half the shortfall. If enacted, the administration's message is that these cuts will be draconian and cause irreparable damage to the economy.
Let us take a look at the numbers rather than the rhetoric. The sequester cuts scheduled to kick in are in the neighborhood of $85 billion. To most, $85 billion is unfathomable, but when one realizes that the national budget is $3.6 trillion, sequestration amounts to about a 2.5 percent cut in government spending or, just a little more than two cents on the dollar.
Also, when the public takes into consideration that Congress just voted a $60 billion plus two-part Hurricane Sandy relief appropriation, one has to wonder about the legitimacy of the fuss over the sequester. Although under the Budget Control Act, the president has little ability to spare one type of spending and cut more from another, Congress has the power to legislate flexibility to map out a fallback position.
Therein lies the barrier. Rather than negotiating in good faith with the congressional leadership as did presidents Reagan, Clinton and both presidents Bush, President Barack Obama has issued warnings of economic calamity, diminished military readiness and chaos emerging from every nook and cranny. Naturally, the Republicans are to blame.
The Republican House of Representatives has passed and sent forward two separate bills outlining a less painful method of cutting spending. However, the president is adamant that any alteration must include additional taxes on the wealthy and, as has been the rule, the Senate has refused to take up the Republican position.
There is absolutely no reason to continue this political morass. Mr. President, everyone realizes that you twice won the majority of the popular vote — a goal achieved only by Democrats Franklin Roosevelt and yourself in the memory of any living person. You also humbled the Republicans by relentlessly pursuing and obtaining a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans. Let's face it, you won and won big.
Mr. President, it should be obvious that the economy remains anemic, unemployment remains high, government is extremely unpopular and the public is hungry for leadership. Even some of your most ardent supporters agree that the penchant for assigning blame is getting old — that it is time for you to "lead from the front."
Accordingly, at this juncture, a leader could afford to be magnanimous and table for now that which is holding up progress — the demand for additional taxes on the wealthy. There is a need for additional revenue, but more people employed and paying taxes is far more lucrative than taxing and re-taxing the same people.
And, by the way, Mr. President, you are the commander in chief and, as such, ultimately responsible for national security. Your secretary of defense warned the deep defense cuts triggered by sequestration will prompt “the most significant readiness crisis in more than a decade.”
A leader can delegate authority but not responsibility — you, sir, are responsible.