Sequestration: First, do Harm

WASHINGTON, DC, February 25, 2013 ― President Obama is giving us dire warnings about the dangers of cutting government spending, as he travels a 100-stop campaign route, wasting a million dollars on each crank speech. What he isn’t saying is important, too. It’s not about the money; it’s about the fear he can muster, the power he thinks he wields.

Let’s get a little perspective here. Depending on whose figures you’re using, “sequestration” means the government won’t be spending some additional 50 to 87 billion that everybody planned on spending. How much is that? Well, according to the president’s fear machine, it’s enough to shut down the TSA, the Air Traffic Control System, Border Patrol, all the national parks, Customs, meat inspections, local fire and police and ambulance service, the various wars we’re in, school lunches, education, and pretty much everything else.

President Obama toasting President Obama

President Obama toasting President Obama

Does the president control all that? If so, how did we let him have all that power? Do local communities not have anything to say about education or fire fighters or police? Is not the president’s job (as he himself said) to “protect the citizens?” Then why does he jump on these things rather than, say, sensitivity training for the bureaucracy, or foreign aid, or paying the UN’s lunch bills?

We also need to think about how we got to this point: How much is the federal government doing, that it has no business doing? The Constitution is specific about federal powers; over decades, we’ve allowed the feds to take over pretty much everything, from actual brick and mortar to the licensing and regulation of everything else. Sorry – that’s not what the federal government is for.

Next, we need to look at what the president wants to wreck – what we seem to think are “essential services,” things that only government can do. Running wars is government’s business; nobody else would do it, given a choice. But air traffic control or meat inspection? Does anyone seriously believe that industry wouldn’t quickly set up a system if government stepped out? School lunches – do you think that parents will let their kid starve, rather than give up half a pack of cigarettes a day? Do you think, with restrictions removed, that airlines wouldn’t set up their own passenger screening if the TSA went away? (You can note that there were 75 years of commercial travel before 911, without a TSA. With increased awareness, the airlines could do even better for the next 75 years. Besides, the 911 guys followed all the FAA’s guidelines!)

Then, let’s look at all the “non-essential government personnel” who face these fake layoffs. The question should be asked, “Why are there any non-essential personnel on the public payroll, anyway?”

But the amount of money is what’s ridiculous. It won’t make a dent in our insane spending (but anything that slows down spending increases should be welcomed). Remember a few years ago, when President Bush assured us that $32 billion was necessary for Bear, Stearns, to keep The Recession from happening? (Oops.) Remember when President-elect Obama urged that same President Bush to withhold most of the TARP money, so he (Obama) could throw it around  his way? (How’d that work out for you?) Remember the award of some $180 billion (well over twice the amount discussed in the sequester), just to AIG, that we peasants weren’t qualified to even question? And QE2, and QE3? All were protected from any significant public discussion, because the government knew what was best for us, and all were many times greater than the “crisis” we’re now facing.

Or does the President mean to say that all these things he’s so willing to throw at us, from school lunches to air traffic control, to whatever – customized meals at Guantanamo? – all these things could be paid for with $87 billion? Great – then let’s see a budget that funds all these things – for $87 billion.

Whatever the mess is, remember, too, that this is the deal Congress and President Obama worked out two years ago, to avoid doing anything substantive in controlling spending with an election looming. They told us this was a great idea, and the best that could be struck. They were probably right, given the spinelessness irresponsibility and level of delusion that people in DC call “normal.”

So let’s hope that next election year, somebody remembers. In the meantime, let’s suggest that the President just shut down one more thing: the IRS. Then, you’d see a real recovery.

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Tim Kern

Tim Kern taught economics for fifteen years, and discovered that understanding life is easy; it’s recognizing reality that takes practice. He holds a music degree, and later earned an MBA in finance from Northwestern University. He has lived across the US, and now makes his home in Anderson, Indiana.

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