According to President Obama and his fellow Democrats, the Fiscal Cliff that looms just days away is a bad, bad thing that is being forced upon them by the unreasonable partisans on the Right who are obstructing any and all progress for the sake of making the President look bad. According to John Boehner and the Republicans the approaching Fiscal Cliff is a catastrophe of the President’s own making that could easily be avoided if the Democrats in Congress weren’t a bunch of hypocritical tax and spend Liberals who would rather let this country go down the tubes than allow hard work to be rewarded.
Despite all their differences, did you notice the commonality between the two sides? The Sequester, as the Fiscal Cliff is more formally known, is a bad thing. They can’t agree on assigning the blame, which seems to be far more important than coming up with a solution to all involved, but they are in lockstep on the fact that Cliff = Bad. Am I the only one to notice that anytime the Big Two agree on anything it ends up being bad for We the People?
Most Americans don’t really understand the implications of the sequestration. They know that it’s bad, because they heard their favorite politician say so on TV. And they are sure that it is the other party’s fault because, well, their own party certainly can’t be to blame. And besides, we’ve all heard Obama / Boehner explain in such eloquent and reasonable terms that the other side is entirely to blame.
Republicans want to blame the Democrats. Democrats put the blame on the Republicans. Both are right, in a way. Both are wrong, in most ways. The real blame, the ultimate culpability for the sequestration, is little known bureaucrat Gene Sperling (pictured, with the President). Sperling, the Director of the White House National Economic Council, had the naive idea that setting up an unpalatable set of cuts as an ultimatum would force Democrats and Republicans to act like grownups and work together in order to avoid the Fiscal Cliff. Sperling somehow managed to get key lawmakers in both parties to look through his nifty, rose-colored glasses and believe that it would be all unicorns and rainbows if the alternative were ugly enough. Sperling clearly overestimated the ability of our elected officials in Congress to put aside their partisan bickering for the good of the country. Sperling is the one responsible for the looming cliff, but ‘blame’ may not be quite the right word.
At the risk of putting myself squarely outside the mainstream thinking, may I suggest that maybe the sequestration is a good thing? The massive, debilitating cuts that would cripple our nation and force local governments to fire half the police department, fire department, and teachers amount to LESS THAN 10% of discretionary spending. And it’s not even that much because, unlike every other budget maintained by anyone else on the planet, the U.S. Federal Government uses assumed growth as a baseline. If you want to see baseline spending in action in real life, go tell your boss that although you made $50,000 last year you are willing to take a pay cut to $53,000 this year. Let me know how that works out for you.
The real numbers tell a different story than the dire warning of “draconian” cuts. If the cuts are passed, discretionary spending in 2013 will be virtually unchanged from 2012. How many Americans have been living without raises for four, five, six years now? The government should be able to maintain spending levels for two years in a row without the country falling into ruin.
Bear in mind that all this talk applies to discretionary spending only. Putatively mandatory programs, like Social Security, Medicaid, salaries and pensions for federal workers, and veterans’ benefits would not be impacted by one nickel.
So I say “damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead.” Let’s charge full force toward the cliff. Let’s run toward it with reckless abandon. I say we jump off like lemmings in the springtime and charge headlong down what looks more like a Gently Sloping Fiscal Hill than an actual cliff.
And when we roll to the bottom let’s get up, dust ourselves off, and vote the tired old partisans out of Congress. It’s time for fresh faces, fresh ideas, and new party affiliations.
(White House photo)