WASHINGTON -- The White House is still trying to stir up a climate of fear over the looming budget sequester that is not supported by the size of its puny spending cuts.
This irresponsible political strategy is being driven by President Obama in an attempt to convince enough of us that the sequester will shut down critical sectors of the government, endanger our country and possibly plunge the economy into another crisis.
A lot of this hysteria, too, comes from his pals in the nightly network news who have failed to put this fiscal battle and its complexities into proper perspective.
So let's take a deep breath and look at the math behind the sequester, which shows just how exaggerated these cuts may prove to be in the end.
We keep seeing warnings flashed on our TV screens in bold numerals that the sequester will whack $1.1 trillion out of a federal budget that spends between $3.5 trillion and $4 trillion a year. Is this true?
In fact, it is $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years, which means, first, we are talking about a much smaller sum of money this year.
And, second, no one suggests that the stalemate over the sequester is going to last an entire decade. For more than two centuries, we have financed our government by enacting annual budgets, though that process has been stopped cold in recent years because the Democratic-run Senate refuses to pass a budget.
That's something you hear very little about on the nightly news, where the blame tends to be placed on the Republican-controlled House, even though it has sent three budgets to the Senate over the last three years -- only to have them be declared "dead on arrival." According to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, "We don't need a budget."
So how much are we really talking about in terms of the across-the-board spending cuts that could take place this year after the March 1 sequester deadline?
Just $85 billion out of a budget that's fast approaching $4 trillion a year. In fact, the real number would likely be less than that when measured in terms of outlays -- not in authorizations for future spending.
Be that as it may, if members of Congress cannot cut a mere $85 billion from a monster budget of this size -- swollen by $1 trillion a year in borrowed money -- they're not trying.
The government loses a great deal more than that each year through fraud, thievery, waste, abuse, duplication and sheer incompetence.
But the rules governing the pending sequester require that the spending cuts must fall across the board, with half coming from domestic federal spending and half from the Department of Defense.