The Sequester Jesters

Just when you thought politicians might one day turn serious, here come the sequester jesters, dressed in full clown regalia. There are plenty of harlequins to go around, but let’s focus on two: Barack Obama and John Boehner.

For those of you who were doing sensible things when the sequester was implemented, here’s a recap. (It will help to recall the movie Dr. Strangelove as you read on.) Republicans and Democrats could not agree on a budget, so both parties–yes, both parties, despite what the two main clowns say–came up with the fiscal equivalent of Strangelove’s Doomsday Machine.

Unlike the Doomsday Machine, the sequester will not annihilate the planet, but it will prompt wailing and gnashing of teeth among the political class and whoever else is prone to panic attacks when Washington talks about spending less.  Thus the media’s frenzied coverage of an insignificant and colossally stupid gesture on the part of our government.

The disagreement in 2011 became so “bad” (unless, like me, you think that is the way our government is supposed to work) that both sides agreed to a kind of suicide pact in which a Supercommittee was appointed to work out a way to reduce the federal budget by $1.5 trillion over ten years. They failed, as anyone not breathing fumes from the Floor of the House and Senate could have predicted. The pact mandated that in such as case, $85 billion would be cut across the board, including both domestic spending and defense.

The next chapter of the story was likewise predictable–the law that Congress imposed upon itself came and…they punted, at least for two months. That is, Congress decided that maybe the real cuts should wait until March 1, which will arrive next week. Now the President is shouting from the rooftops that the sequester will start a nuclear reaction in the economy and end life as we know it. John Boehner is telling the President to fix it himself, since it was his idea. Chicken Little is being scolded by a finger-pointer. You can’t make that kind of thing up.

In reality, the cuts amount to a single kernel in a bushel of grain. Obama’s scare stories amount to just that–stories designed to pressure Republicans into raising taxes instead of cutting the budget. The truth is that domestic cuts will amount to about 5% and defense cuts about 8% Some federal workers may get furloughed, the TSA may have to annoy us in airports on a budget, and liberals will need to be sedated. We may have to rethink our defense of Europe, which is residue from WWII and its aftermath, or likewise be more prudent in our fervor to save every corner of the world from everything. We will not be gazing at mushroom clouds on the economic horizon.


Painting by Andre Derain

Sadly, if Boehner sticks to his guns and lets the sequester happen, it will be for naught. He and his party will go down as the bad guys. Why? Because neither he nor any mainstream Republican has come up with a cogent argument for spending reduction. They are against Obama, an easy thing to be, but they cannot tell us why. Cutting government spending is not a choice, it is a necessity. The choices we make now will seal our fate over the next several years. Left unchecked, big government will be our ruin.

Fortunately, not all Republicans are mainstream. Rand Paul, for example, has offered an alternative to the sequester that involves no layoffs. Why will it get nowhere? Because it is a step in the right direction and the vast majority of Congress has no intention whatsoever of moving in the right direction. Paul suggests that, among other things, we pay public employees at rates similar to private employees in similar jobs. Egads! And ask them to travel 25% less. Horrors!

He also advocates not hiring bureaucrats to replace those who retire. In 2011, that was 62,000 people. The first thing a smart businessperson does when an employee retires is to ask whether the job is still necessary. The first thing a politician does is ask whether two more should be hired to replace him/her.

The fascinating thing to me in all this hullabaloo over the budget is just how far both parties are willing to go to avoid telling people the truth: Our current path will take us to the point of no return. That is, if we are not already there. Democrats are beyond hope–they will feed the government beast until it eats everyone but them. Wait, they are the beast. Hmmmmm…that explains a lot, doesn’t it?

Republicans have in the form of Rand Paul and a few others voices of reason. They may, if they quit listening to Karl Rove and stop apologizing for capitalism, find an identity that makes sense. Right now people like Rand Paul and Paul Ryan are considered kooks, but only because the American public has grown complacent about the erosion of liberty and the insatiable appetite of government. Far from the eyes and ears of the mainstream media, thousands upon thousands of people are re-examining the principles that founded this country. They are re-discovering economists who understand the connection between freedom and prosperity. They are listening to people like Rand Paul and asking why ideas like these are considered anathema by the political class. And they are starting to speak out.

One day, perhaps soon, the weight of public opinion will start to shift in favor of minimal government and maximum individualism. When it does, the hue and cry raised by liberals will give way to steadily increasing wealth and well-being–for rich and poor alike. The clowns will have to find other work and our descendants will have to act like adults in order to do well. The truly needy will be cared for by sincerely benevolent people rather than proxies for the progressives. We will live as human beings should–independent, free, and well-off. May the scale tip soon, before it is too late.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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2 Responses to The Sequester Jesters

  1. Jane Carrell says:

    What really made me angry about the arrangement was that the GOP, after having handily won the 2010 election, taking the House from the Dems, agreed to an arrangement which removed their majority, and gave them equal votes on the economy with the Dems. DUHHHHH!!!! They disenfranchised their electorate, and it may have been partially responsible for the stay-at-homes in 2012.


  2. Dick Richards says:

    Right on the money as usual, Mr. Noel. I, by the way, take great pride that Senator Rand Paul hails from the great Commonwealth of Kentucky. Love the guy.


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