The dangers of political hyperbole
Sequester not as bad as it was made out to be
Published: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 3, 2013 19:03
This past Friday, the world was supposed to end when the sequester went into effect.
The cuts in the sequester were supposed to be so extreme that air travel would become unsafe as Air Traffic Control was unable to do their job. Education would take a massive hit as pre-schoolers were kicked out of Head Start. Cities would be up in flames after firefighters were laid off. Streets would be in danger as prisoners were set loose.
Of course this is all exaggeration, but this is what every fiscal debate in the modern Obama era has become: demagoguery, hyperbole and hype.
Let it be known that we will never see the reforms and cuts needed to promote long term fiscal growth if every attempt at deficit reduction like the “Fiscal Cliff” or the sequester is turned into this massive disaster that must be avoided at all costs. It has to be made known that we can live without some of this spending, and we will need to if we wish to return to responsible federal budgets in the future.
These cuts, which were part of the solution to the debt ceiling debate in 2011, were supposed to be so extreme and terrible for both sides that they would compel Congress to pass a “grand bargain” that would deal with cuts and reforms in a more responsible way than the blanket cut to discretionary domestic and defense spending.
Now of course this grand bargain remained out of reach for the typical reasons these things always stay out of reach: Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on anything except that something needs to be done.
Obama has been one of the most outspoken critics of the sequester, and yet it was he who originally proposed it. It passed Congress and was signed into law with substantial bipartisan support.
Now Obama is doing things to make Americans scared of his sequester, and has even used the budget cuts as an excuse to make policy.
He’s tackling the immigration problem by releasing waves of illegal immigrants from INS detention centers, saying that the sequester required him to do it. No, it didn’t.
There were plenty of ways to meet the sequester cuts without scaring people into thinking there would be criminals running loose on the streets.
The Democrats have had a lot to gain from the sequester being the end of the world. They don’t want Americans to realize that the cuts aren’t as bad as they were made out to be, because that means they’ll be less susceptible to the demagoguery next time a deficit reduction deal gets passed.
Their strategy could still work because Americans will likely forget about their experience with the sequester by the time the next budget battle begins. And then we’ll begin this same process all over again, with Democrats saying it will be the end of the world and Republicans saying it won’t be.
Keene is a junior majoring in political science, economics and public policy.