Politics: Obama's absurd song and dance on the horrors of spending cuts

Published by: Dan Calabrese on Wednesday February 20th, 2013

Dan Calabrese

By DAN CALABRESE - How does anyone take this man seriously?

Perspective is good, so consider: The federal government spends $3.6 trillion a year. A cut of $85 billion, as called for in the looming sequester, represents 2.3 percent of that total, from a government that is having to borrow more than 25 percent of everything it spends. It doesn't touch entitlement spending at all, so we're talking about 7 percent of the Pentagon budget and 5 percent of discretionary domestic spending.

But wait, there's more: Over the past five years, these agencies have received budget increases totalling 17 percent. So even if you make the cuts required by the sequester, the Pentagon still has 10 percent more than it had in 2008 (and remember, the Iraq War is over and we're told the Afghanistan War is ending next year), and the domestic agencies still have 12 percent more than they had in 2008.

Sounds like something they could handle, yes? Sillies! Haven't you been listening to Barack Obama?

Conjuring up the specter of fired teachers, furloughed FBI agents, idled Border Patrol agents, sidelined firefighters, criminals freed by cutbacks and "hundreds of thousands" of lost jobs, President Barack Obama pressed congressional Republicans on Tuesday to agree to increase tax revenues as part of a plan to avert "brutal" across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect one week from Friday.

"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," Obama warned in a speech at the White House, flanked by emergency workers. “It won’t consider whether we’re cutting some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness or a vital service that Americans depend on every single day.”

If this guy were running a division of some company that had a bit of a down year and ordered all its managers to cut their budgets by 2.3 percent, I guess he would go into a complete meltdown. It can't be done!

By the way, how many firefighters are in the employ of the federal government? Yeah, that's what I thought. And how many "vital services" of the federal government do Americans "depend on every single day"? Serious question. Is there something Washington does that you or someone else depends on "every single day"? Cities supply your water and police protection. Private companies pick up the trash, and that's just once a week. Really, I can't think of anything. I guess you could argue that we depend on the military to protect our national security "every single day," but the way he said it implies something that people personally need and engage with on a daily basis. Is there anything like that?

Anyhoo, the Wall Street Journal effectively destroys the Keynesian argument that cutting spending will kill the economy:

After World War II federal spending fell from 42% of GDP to 14.8% in two years, yet the private economy and employment roared back to life. In the 1980s domestic spending fell by about two percentage points of GDP and in the 1990s it fell by more than three. Those were decades of government austerity but rapid growth in private output and wealth. Mr. Obama has taken government spending from 21% to 24% of GDP, yet we've had the weakest economic recovery in three generations.

What I'm struck by here is the astounding lengths to which Obama will go to avoid even the tiniest spending cuts. A big showy appeal with "vital" public employees standing at his side (some of whom don't even work for the federal government, mind you), and warnings of disaster if the dreaded "meat cleaver" is to be swung. It's quite the song and dance to avoid having to make budget cuts of freaking 2.3 percent, when we're already spending a quarter of GDP.

What's that? I have to think that even Obama knows his warnings of doom are Bolshevik, but I also think he's worried that if he cedes political ground on the need for spending cuts at all, now matter how tiny, he will undercut the current Democratic talking point about how we don't really have a spending problem at all, but just a "paying for" problem that is easily solved by confiscating more private-sector capital in the richest nation on Earth.

As the Journal points out, any half-competent middle manager could find 5 or 7 percent to cut from his department's budget given a cash shortfall. But that assumes an agenda based on some modicum of seriousness, and you can't make any such assumption where Barack Obama is concerned.

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