How to Turn a Molehill into a Mountain

So Obama raised the budget by a trillion dollars, but now must find $85 billion to cut. Only in the whimsical world of Washington D.C. is that considered a spending cut, but that’s their story, and they are sticking to it. Republicans offered to let Obama decide where each and every penny is cut, but Obama said he would veto that bill if it made it to his desk. He does not want the responsibility of being the one to cut something, because this is all part of the plan to make republicans look bad, and win the House back in the 2014 mid-term elections.

Obama had to figure out how to make people side with him on the sequestration, without making enemies of core voting groups. Thousands of illegal immigrants were released supposedly because of the looming cuts. The FAA plans to cut the number of air traffic controllers, at most instilling fear, and at least forcing long waits at the airport. While you wait for your plane, Obama hopes your resentment will be aimed at those silly republicans who are the only thing standing in the way of utopia. Oh and did you want a tour of the white house? Sorry, no more white house tours–and no more tour guide who makes six figures–because that is something you will notice and say, wow those mean republicans just took a really cool field trip away from some six graders. Increase taxes, for the children!

Thomas Sowell quite insightfully described the situation with a hypothetical example.

Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing life-saving medications to children. If this agency’s budget were cut, what would it do?

The answer, of course, is that it would cut back on the medications for children. Why? Because that would be what was most likely to get the budget cuts restored. If they cut back on building statues of Benedict Arnold, people might ask why they were building statues of Benedict Arnold in the first place.

The example was deliberately extreme as an illustration. But, in the real world, the same general pattern can be seen in local, state and national government responses to budget cuts.

At the local level, the first response to budget cuts is often to cut the police department and the fire department. There may be all sorts of wasteful boondoggles that could have been cut instead, but that would not produce the public alarm that reducing police protection and fire protection can produce. And public alarm is what can get budget cuts restored.

If the $85 billion in cuts were spread out across the $4 trillion budget, no one would notice. But if no one notices, Obama cannot use the sequester to instill fear, to pit voters against his enemies, and to raise the tax burden to unprecedented levels. Across the board cuts that no one notices do not fit the Obama administration narrative that republicans are causing the sky to fall. I’m surprised Obama could not find a puppy shelter to close so he could televise the euthanization of all those poor little puppies dying, because of the republicans.

Obama has got a tough job. He has to make sure to cut stuff that we all notice, without taking the blame for it. He’s got to make sure no one finds out about his 226 senior staffers making six figures each year. Or hopefully no one reads the book “Presidential Perks Gone Royal” by Robert Keith Gray, which might tip voters off that the Obama family spent $1.4 billion of taxpayers’ money on personal expenses, vacations, assistants, etc. in 2011. But no fact is too big for the media to hide, and no lie that can’t be justified.

Did you hear about how the janitors at the capitol building would see major pay cuts, according to Obama, because of sequestration? Well, turns out that was pretty much a lie. The boss of the capitol’s cleaning staff sent out an e-mail within minutes of Obama’s statement telling them they would not lose any pay, and to ignore the media reports. They might see a reduction in overtime, however, which according to white house staff they depend upon as part of their income to make ends meet. Well actually, that was pretty much a lie as well. The average capitol janitor made $304 of overtime in 2012, and in 2013 the average is already at $388 per person because of the extra costs of inauguration, and ushering in a new congress. If sequestration eliminated overtime for capitol hill janitors, they would still make more this year than last year. The main message to take away from this is, do not believe anything that comes out of Obama’s mouth, because it is at best an exaggeration, and at worst an outright lie.

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