It’s interesting to see how much of the content of our Elite Media Overlords is devoted to pretending the sequester is no big deal — or is strictly Obama’s fault, as if the Republicans didn’t help plan it and didn’t trumpet it as a huge victory when they signed off on it back in 2011. Witness, for example, this piece by Glenn Kessler in last Friday’s Washington Post. Lots of denial going on, that’s for sure.
Ironically enough, Friday’s WaPo also had this piece by Lisa Rein, which does a reasonably good job of pointing out when and where the harms caused by the sequester will manifest themselves. She put some focus on the cuts being forced at the US Department of Agriculture, whose Food Safety Inspection Service is responsible for inspecting all the red meat and poultry processed and consumed in America; fully a third of her article was devoted to the furloughs planned for that single USDA agency, and the efforts of various entities, especially representatives of the meat industry and the Republicans whose political campaigns they fund, to pretend in the face of all the evidence that sequestration wouldn’t hurt and the furloughs didn’t have to hurt, either.
In other words, they’re mostly still stuck, publicly at any rate, in the first stage of Sequester Grief — denial.
But there are signs that the denial is wearing off and they’re moving into the anger phase, as more energy is being devoted by the Republicans, the far-right falangist billionaires that love them, and the media outlets run by those billionaires, to putting all the blame on Obama as the effects of the sequester start to become undeniable. From a recent James Rosen article:
House Republicans, among them the head of a key oversight panel, threatened Friday to call Cabinet secretaries and other executive agency managers before congressional hearings on how furloughs are applied in the wake of forced spending cuts.
“If they’re laying off TSA agents and air-traffic controllers, and yet (Transportation Secretary) Ray LaHood’s office is still getting cleaned each night, come on,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the regulatory subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee.
Shorter Jim Jordan: Damn, chasing my own tail hurts when I finally bite down on it.
Back in reality, Rosen deftly undercuts Jordan’s chest-thumping dominance displays thus:
Republicans have accused Obama and Democratic congressional allies of trying to gain political advantage by painting doomsday scenarios about the immediate impact of the forced spending cuts, which the Republicans say amount to only 2.2 percent of this year’s projected $3.8 trillion federal budget.
But about two-thirds of the total budget is exempt under the 2011 Budget Control Act, which requires $1.2 trillion in forced cuts over a decade if Congress can’t find other reductions. The automatic cuts, called sequestration, were to have started Jan. 1 of this year, but a short-term deal pushed them back to March 1.
The exempted spending – including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits, and wages for active-duty troops – means that hundreds of discretionary military and non-defense programs will experience an effective hit of 6.6 percent or more.
What’s left that’s cuttable must, by the terms of the sequester, be cut across the board. This was intentional. The sequester was deliberately designed to be so painful that it would force all parties to the negotiation table, and its creation was celebrated by key Republicans, including John Boehner and Paul Ryan.
It’s going to take awhile for the full effects to be felt, mainly because legal and administrative requirements in many government agencies require thirty days of advance notice before furloughs are to take place. But the effect of this will be to concentrate the furloughs in those agencies into the last quarter of the government’s fiscal year, which ends September 30. That will intensify the impact on the various industries that depend on government aid and oversight to function. That, in turn, will intensify the calls by the representatives of those impacted industries for a fix of some sort — and the only fixes possible at this point are either a complete cave by the Tea Party Caucus on revenue increases, or a way to kick the can further down the road, preferably after the 2014 midterms. (Of course, either of these would have to be dressed up in pretty pink face-saving ribbons to keep the Teepers from revolting over them.)
In other words, expect to see the bargaining, depression, and hemi-semi-demi-acceptance stages show up sometime this summer.
Photo by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons license