Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 9, 2013

Americans have been sequestered by their elected public servants

By JAMES H. "SMOKEY" SHOTT
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has produced an economic report using “The Budget and Economic Outlook: FY 2013 to 2023” from the Congressional Budget Office that paints the true picture of the impact of the sequester on federal spending.

It has become standard practice in recent years for the federal government to spend more than a trillion dollars above what it takes in. In 2013 the budget deficit will be a little over $900 billion, adding nearly another trillion dollars to the national debt. According to Mercatus, the government planned to increase spending by $2.54 trillion through 2023. That represents an increase in government spending of 72 percent over 10 years.

And then came the sequester, which President Barack Obama told us would wreak all sorts of havoc on the government and the nation, throwing tens of thousands of Americans out of work, and all manner of other horrors.

We were told that the sequester was a cut to government funding levels, but that was not true. The sequester wasn’t cutting anything, merely reducing the amount of additional money government got each year over the previous year, so that over that 10-year period spending would only increase by $2.40 trillion. With the reductions in spending increases under the sequester, spending would still increase by 68 percent over 10 years. Instead of spending an average of $540 billion more each year, government could only spend $400 billion more each year. What a hardship.

Putting this equation in dollar amounts that people can identify with, let’s say that you earn $43,000 a year — the average wage in the U.S. — and your employer told you that each year for the next 10 years you would get paid $2,540 more than the previous year. But then the company had a financial crisis and was only able to pay you $2,400 more than last year, about 5.5 percent less. Would you have to sell your second car to make ends meet? Would you have to move to a less expensive home, or eat only bread and beans? Would your life really change at all because your pay raise was $140 less than you expected?

Actually, you could spend money on things just like you did the preceding year, and have money left over.

Returning to the federal situation, how could the government having $400 billion more to spend in fiscal year 2013 than it had in fiscal year 2012 cause such horrific results as those the president warned us about? Well, because those in the position to create horrific results decided to make the most of the situation, and create as much pain as possible.

And why would they do that? Quoting that famous socialist philosopher, former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.” In other words, use this situation to help you achieve your selfish goals by creating a lot of pain and blaming it on your political opponents.

And how would they do that? Well, when faced with two possible areas to spend less, where one was painful and the other wasn’t — such as not filling government positions opened through attrition (painless) or releasing illegal alien criminals back onto the streets (painful and dumb), these public servants choose to release illegal alien criminals. Of course, everyone with common sense recognizes that decision is stupid and dangerous, but common sense is unwelcome in this entirely political situation. What matters most to these malpracticing public servants is causing enough pain to get the people to clamor for relief from the painful decisions, and restore things to their pre-sequester status.

This is the path that Barack Obama and the other big spenders chose to try to reverse the sequester that was originally their brain child. It is revealing that the president refused to accept the authority to decide how best to accomplish spending a little less than originally envisioned, which was offered to him by U.S. Senators Pat Toomey, R-Pa.  and James Inhofe, R-Okah., who authored an alternative to give him discretion to allocate the sequester’s cuts largely as he sees fit. Mr. Obama, who never is responsible for anything bad, wanted no part of it, because then whatever pain couldn’t be avoided would be his responsibility.

The president wants to blame new economic problems on the sequester. But the actual effects of the sequester are only to reduce budget increases by an amount small enough that competent managers could adequately and nearly painlessly deal with. But, of course, the president turned down that authority.

The real pain and suffering that occurs after the sequester took effect will have resulted primarily from decisions deliberately made to cause pain for no better reason than to allow the president and our other employees in government to create a situation that benefits them and their spending addiction.

This behavior is the antithesis of the ideal of public service and should earn every public servant who indulges in it a quick ejection from their job. Unfortunately, many Americans are more concerned with outcomes than with following an honorable process to achieve them.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.