The Right Opinion

The Sequester: A Manufactured Crisis

By George Will · Feb. 24, 2013

WASHINGTON – Even during this desultory economic recovery, one industry thrives – the manufacture of synthetic hysteria. It is, however, inaccurate to accuse the Hysteric in Chief of crying “Wolf!” about spending cuts under the sequester. He is actually crying “Hamster!”

As in: Batten down the hatches – the sequester will cut $85 billion from this year's $3.6 trillion budget! Or: Head for the storm cellar – spending will be cut 2.3 percent! Or: Washington chainsaw massacre – we must scrape by on 97.7 percent of current spending! Or: Chaos is coming because the sequester will cut a sum $25 billion larger than was just shoveled out the door (supposedly, but not actually) for victims of storm Sandy! Or: Heaven forfend, the sequester will cut 47 percent as much as was spent on the AIG bailout! Or: Famine, pestilence and locusts will come when the sequester causes federal spending over 10 years to plummet from $46 trillion all the way down to $44.8 trillion! Or: Grass will grow in the streets of America's cities if the domestic agencies whose budgets have increased 17 percent under President Obama must endure a 5 percent cut!

The sequester has forced liberals to clarify their conviction that whatever the government's size is at any moment, it is the bare minimum necessary to forestall intolerable suffering. At his unintentionally hilarious hysteria session last Tuesday, Obama said: The sequester's “meat-cleaver approach” of “severe,” “arbitrary” and “brutal” cuts will “eviscerate” education, energy and medical research spending. “And already, the threat of these cuts has forced the Navy to delay an aircraft carrier that was supposed to deploy to the Persian Gulf.”

“Forced”? The Navy did indeed cite the sequester when delaying deployment of the USS Truman. In the high-stakes pressure campaign against Iran's nuclear weapons program, U.S. policy has been to have two carriers in nearby waters. Yet the Navy is saying it cannot find cuts to programs or deployments less essential than the Truman deployment. The Navy's participation in the political campaign to pressure Congress into unraveling the sequester is crude, obvious and shameful, and should earn the Navy's budget especially skeptical scrutiny by Congress.

The Defense Department's civilian employment has grown 17 percent since 2002. In 2012, DOD spending on civilian personnel was 21 percent higher than in 2002. And the Truman must stay in Norfolk? This is, strictly speaking, unbelievable.

The sequester's critics correctly say it is not the most intelligent way to prune government; priorities among programs should be set. But such critics are utopians if they are waiting for the arrival of intelligent government. The real choice today is between bigger or smaller unintelligent government.

Obama, who believes government spends money more constructively than do those who earn it, warns that the sequester's budgetary nicks, amounting to one half of 1 percent of gross domestic product, will derail the economy. A similar jeremiad was heard in 1943 when economist Paul Samuelson, whose Keynesian assumptions have trickled down to Obama, said postwar cuts in government would mean “the greatest period of unemployment and industrial dislocation which any economy has ever faced.”

Federal spending did indeed shrink an enormous 40 percent in one year. And the economy boomed.

Because crises are government's excuse for growing, liberalism's motto is: Never let a crisis go unfabricated. But its promiscuous production of crises has made them boring.

Remember when, in the 1980s, thousands died from cancers caused by insufficient regulation of the chemical Alar sprayed on apples? No, you don't because this alarming prediction fizzled. Alar was not, after all, a risk.

Remember when “a major cooling of the climate” was “widely considered inevitable” (New York Times, May 21, 1975) with “extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation” (Science magazine, Dec. 10, 1976) which must “stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery” (International Wildlife, July 1975)? Remember reports that “the world's climatologists are agreed” that we must “prepare for the next ice age” (Science Digest, February 1973)? Armadillos were leaving Nebraska, heading south, and heat-loving snails were scampering southward from European forests (Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 27, 1974). Newsweek (April 28, 1975) said meteorologists were “almost unanimous” that cooling would “reduce agricultural productivity.”

Today, while Obama prepares a governmental power grab to combat global warming, sensible Americans, tuckered out with apocalypse fatigue, are yawning through the catastrophe du jour, the sequester. They say: Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the hamsters of sequestration.

© 2013, Washington Post Writers Group

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11 Comments

BOBinMA in Mass. said:

Priceless! I wish you lived next door.

Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 2:27 PM

HP in Kalispell, MT said:

Let us pray...

Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 5:11 PM

Kevin from Arkansas in USA said:

"A Manufactured Crisis"

Haven't they all been the last 4 years? Besides being a liar Obama is nothing but a drama queen.

Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 5:16 PM

Robert in Melbourne, FL said:

George has it exactly right. This is the running of the hamsters not running of the bulls. An ever increasing deficit is far more dangerous than cutting everything by a few percent. Bring it on......

Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 5:59 PM

enemaofthestatistquo in Monroe, GA said:

Better Sequestration than the Politicians picking winners and losers. Let the chips fall where they may.

Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 6:21 PM

enemaofthestatistquo in Monroe, GA replied:

Or even better the 2006 Budget.

Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 6:26 PM

enemaofthestatistquo in Monroe, GA said:

Speaking of Budgets, USConstitution,Art1,Sec7,PP1; "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives: but the Senate may [MAY, not Shall] propose opr concur with Amendments as on other Bills". The House should create a Constitutional crisis bypassing the Senate after 10 days of passage of their budget and send it to the President, if the Senate will not debate within 10 days, or joint committee, they relinquish their privilege of concurrence to taxes, revenue, budget, expenditures. I interpret the Constitution as above.

Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 6:33 PM

enemaofthestatistquo in Monroe, GA replied:

If this provision is supposed to be a check-balance of the Senate upon the House, then where is the check-balance upon the Senate(president) as to appointments and treaties? I say the House has the prerogative on all monetarty matters should the Senate fail to act within the 10 days mentioned in the clause.

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 3:29 PM

Rod in USA said:

*They say: Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the hamsters of sequestration*

Very nice.

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 11:59 AM

READY4ACHANGE in ILLINOIS said:

Let the sequester happen.

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

And Peter, Paul, & Mary sang, "If they had a budget,they'd kut back in the morning, they'd kut back in da evening, and all over this land!"

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 5:44 PM