Something odd happened a few months ago as I weighed the various aspects of the dreaded Sequester Monster, a creature vilified across party lines.
It is often true that if enough people in government say something is bad, there is a strong chance of redeeming qualities.
So my journey began. The only element of the sequester that bothered me in the least was military cuts. But my friends at the Institute for Policy Innovation properly observe that defense spending will not fall below 2007 levels, which were 75% above pre-9/11Pentagon budgets.
High enough for me? Of course not. I actually want to continue fighting wars against jihadists who will most assuredly continue to wage war on us. But alas, Barack Obama is President, and even if we manage to derail Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary, we are not going to get Dick Cheney or John Bolton policies from this White House.
Future Congresses, hopefully peppered with a lot more Republicans, will be able to join with Obama’s GOP successor to fill in any holes that might be dug in the near term.
The conservative overreaction to the defense spending cuts distracted from the overwhelming truth of the sequester: It is the only way we are going to take the first serious steps toward spending reductions.
Can there be any doubt about this?
Democrats are never serious about real spending cuts. Republicans say they are, but too rarely show real willingness to act accordingly.
So the feared sequester, hatched in the Obama White House itself, ironically becomes the only path to real cuts.
The administration is shell-shocked. Obama and the Democrats cannot believe they have not been able to further roll the GOP into agreeing to tax increases without any assurance of spending reductions.
But this rigid, do-nothing, obstructionist Republican Party has done exactly what it should do when outflanked by a Democrat White House and Senate: it has stood its ground and refused to buckle under the pressure of bad ideas.
As such, the sequester deadline ticks ever closer. The beads of sweat on Democrat foreheads are all you need to know that something wonderful is about to happen.
I do not universally follow a flow chart that says if Obama dislikes it, it must be a good thing. But on fiscal matters, that process rarely fails.
Witness the proud first responders gathered behind him Tuesday at a White House photo-op. They were brought in to scare the daylights out of Americans who are supposed to recoil at spending cuts because it will mean slashed police and fire personnel, as well as diminished food safety, airport security and a host of other hazards.
And make no mistake, if the sequester comes, with its thoroughly proper axe that forces politicians to do what they will not do on their own, this White House will punish us.
It will indeed cut things that protect Americans. Not because it has to, but because it wants to.
Barack Obama will tell the nation that the evil Republicans have done this to them. Those Republicans had better be ready, with examples of precise cuts that could have been made that would have endangered no one.
The administration’s craven tactics will have to be put right back into its face. We will need strong, energetic messengers to fan out across the media landscape to tell the nation just what this regime did to make voters think spending cuts cannot happen without danger or pain.
With respect, that means Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell will need to take a seat while Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and others of similar energies grab the American people by the lapels to deliver the first clue millions of them will get about the depth of our fiscal crisis and what it takes to get out of it.
So, to summarize:
The sequester is not to be feared, it is to be embraced. In fact, after the cuts take effect from this one, it would be nice to engineer another one. And another after that.
I’m through waiting for compromises that will never happen. Even if they did, they would be even more watered-down than the sequester cuts.
This whole drama cries out for context.
The first year of sequester cuts are about one-tenth of the $850 billion we flushed down the infamous stimulus toilet. Casting that money to the wind didn’t seem to bring these levels of panic from the media culture that now dutifully echoes Obama’s distaste for the sequester.
And for even further clarity, the roughly one trillion dollars in “cuts” over the next decade are measured against spending levels boosted by inflation forecasts and after exempted spending is factored back in, at totals actually higher than a trillion.
Yes, the argument can be made that these “cuts,” condemned as “brutal” by President Obama, may not in fact be cuts at all over the ten years to come.
Which brings us to the silliness of all of this sequester-mania. No one knows what will be happening in our nation’s budgets four years from now, or eight years from now, much less ten. Today’s cuts, real or imagined, can be deepened or obliterated by future whims.
So we must focus on what we know today.
We know today’s Washington is genetically incapable of even starting down the road of the spending cuts we need.
We know we have the gift of the sequester, which will cut some things we may not want cut, but provides the only hope of cutting countless other types of spending that must be reduced if we are to fiscally survive.
We know the Obama administration has now decided it hates the sequester. We also know this administration is hell-bent on destroying private wealth in order to build a European-style, neo-socialist society driven by obscene government spending that will turn us into Greece.
Case closed. Reach out for that March 1 deadline with confidence. The sequester is not without challenges, but it represents our first, best hope to take a few baby steps down the long, long road toward responsibility.