There's a secret lurking behind all that weeping and wailing over those across-the-board cuts in federal spending now going into effect -- and beginning to filter through the economy:
The emphasis in the news continues to be on the economic repercussions of Washington's meat-ax approach to reining in the federal debt. "But lost in the talk of Washington's dysfunction," to quote a story from the New York Times over the weekend, "is this fact: On paper at least, President Barack Obama and Congress have reduced projected deficits by nearly $4 trillion over a decade -- the widely embraced goal for stabilizing the national debt. ... If the latest cuts stick, the two parties will have achieved nearly the full amount of deficit reduction over the next decade that economists and market analysts have promoted."
How about that? To make a budget balance, it's not always necessary to increase revenue. Cut spending instead, and watch savings build instead of debt, Not that this president has noticed the salutary effect of all these budget cuts -- or maybe he's just hoping that the rest of us haven't.
Even as the budget cuts went into effect, our demagogue-in-chief was still blaming those dastardly Republicans for conspiring to save the taxpayers money. In his weekly address Saturday, the president accused the GOP of having decided that "protecting special-interest tax breaks for the well-off and well-connected is more important than protecting our military and middle-class families from these cuts."
The parade of horrible -- the list of piteous victims of these budget cuts -- has only just begun. The object of all this drummed-up pity and outrage will be to make the budget cuts as noticeable, as inconvenient, even as dangerous as possible. Till the American people cry Uncle (Sam) and let the president have his free-spending way.
The political strategy here is obvious: Deflect attention from the savings being made, and concentrate on what those heartless Republicans are doing to the military, the poor, air travelers ... the aggrieved of every variety. That way, the public will blame the Republicans, and the president will get to restore all the spending he's been forced to cut. (Never mind that the administration itself has chosen to make the cuts as painful as possible. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.)
This is much the same strategy that Bill Clinton, that master triangulator, adopted to dance circles around a flat-footed Newt Gingrich back in the Nineties. It worked then, so why not now?