Obama Sounds a False Alarm Over Sequestration

Even if the cuts come to pass, Obama's job is to make the executive branch of the federal government work.

In an effort to remove the hot-potato issue of excessive government spending from the 2012 presidential campaign, and calling the bluff of congressional Republicans who always seem to favor domestic spending cuts but increased military spending, President Obama suggested the concept of "sequester" in late 2011.

His idea was to reduce the rate of increased spending by 2 percent across the board—on domestic and military spending. To his surprise, the Republicans went along with this. They did so either because they lacked the political fortitude and the political will to designate specifically the unconstitutional and pork barrel federal spending projects to be cut, or because they thought that with the debt of the federal government then approaching $15 trillion (it is now $16.6 trillion and growing), any reductions in spending money the government doesn't have are preferred to no reductions. So, instead of enacting a budget, and instead of recognizing that much of its spending is simply not authorized by the Constitution, Congress enacted the so-called sequester legislation, and the president signed it into law.

The reductions the sequesters require are reductions in the rate of increased spending from those originally planned by Obama and authorized by Congress. Since the federal government has not had a budget in four years, even though federal law requires it to have one every year, these are planned expenditures, not budgetary items, on which the president wants to spend more money. Congress does not feel bound to obey the laws it has written; hence it has disregarded the legal requirement of a budget. Without a budget, the president has great leeway as to how to allocate funds within each department of the executive branch of the federal government.

Nevertheless, even if these sequesters do kick in, the feds will spend more in 2013 than they spent in 2012. That's because the sequesters are not cuts to spending; rather, they are reductions in planned increases in spending. The reductions amount to about two cents for every planned dollar of increased spending for every federal department.

The question remains: What part of each federal department (Justice, Defense, Homeland Security, Agriculture, etc.) will suffer these reduced increases? Here is where this sequester experiment gets dicey.

The president—who once championed the idea of sequesters and even threatened to veto any congressional effort to dismantle them—now has decided he can't live without that additional 2 percent to spend. So, he has gone about the country trying to scare the daylights out of people: Prisoners will be released from federal prisons, soldiers won't have enough bullets in their weapons, we will need to endure five-hour waiting lines at the airports, Social Security checks will be late, and similar nonsense.

If the fears Obama predicts do come to pass, we will have only him to blame. Remember, the sequesters only cut planned increases in spending. Suppose the president planned to hire 100 more soldiers for the Army and agents for the TSA and air traffic controllers for the FAA. Is the president required to hire only 98 of them? Well, under the law, he has a choice. He can hire all 100 and cut back elsewhere, or he can make do on 98 percent of what he has determined are the government's additional needs. But he cannot just intentionally release prisoners or weaken the military or inflict maddening delays on the flying public in order to make his fearful warnings come to pass.

His job is to uphold the Constitution, to make the executive branch of the federal government work. The president has taken an oath to "faithfully execute" his office. The words of the oath are prescribed in the Constitution. The word "faithfully" requires him to enforce the laws whether or not he agrees with them. It also requires him to enforce the laws in such a manner that they make sense—so that the federal government basically performs the services we have grown to expect of it.

I know, we have grown to expect more of the federal government than the Founders dreamed, and far more than we can possibly pay for, and infinitely more than the Constitution authorizes. But that's the good thing about these sequesters: They will force the president to prioritize.

If he prioritizes so that we stay free and safe, so that the government does what we basically have paid it to do, he'll be doing his job and saving us a tiny bit of cash. But if the president enforces the laws so that they hurt rather than work well just so he can say "I told you so" rather than "I'll work with you," then he will be inviting his own political misery or even his own impeachment. And we will have sunk deeper into the abyss of fear, division and red ink that already engulfs us.

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  • WTF||

    But if the president enforces the laws so that they hurt rather than work well just so he can say "I told you so" rather than "I'll work with you," then he will be inviting his own political misery or even his own impeachment.

    Oh, sure, congress would have the balls to actually impeach him. Even if the House were to somehow impeach him, the democrat-controlled Senate would never vote to convict no mater what Obama does.

  • WTF||

    Also, FIST!

    Also, fried chicken.

    Also, monkey pancakes.

  • Question of Auban||

    If Obama were impeached I have a fealing there would be riots that would make the Greek riots pale in comparison. It has become very cliché but it is still true: In the eyes of many, if you disagree with Obama on ANYTHING you must be racist. Impeaching Obama would engulf what is left of Detroit in flames ….. Hmmm, maybe they SHOULD impeach Obama – then we could build a new city on Detroit’s ashes.

  • wareagle||

    it's become pathological, hasn't it. Hillary's liner about the 3 a-m phone call has proven more true that his bootlickers could have imagined. But how many thought that 3a-m was the independent variable and that the man's gross lack of readiness for the job was THE issue.

  • Question of Auban||

    Given what he is trying to do to this country, frankly, I am glad he IS incompetent. He might have “accomplished” even more had he not been.

  • Rich||

    An even scarier thought: The administration actually *wants* Obama to be impeached, in order to implement the next phase. This would explain much of their apparently outrageous behavior.

  • Question of Auban||

    It would explain it. It would also explain his current push for gun control. As much as the Republicans enjoy caving and disapointing their base I am surprised that they have not jumped on board as well. You would think as much as the Republicans enjoy pissing on their base that they would have.

  • wareagle||

    don't know about "wants" to be impeached, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the things most of us consider to be bad outcomes are exactly what this administration wants to have happen.

  • Question of Auban||

    Yes, bad outcomes like the institution of a totalitarian dictatorship. If you don't want Obama to institute a totalitarian dictatorship you must be racist, by the way.

  • SugarFree||

    This would explain much of their apparently outrageous behavior.

    The people that are outraged are a tiny minority, and the tiny minority of that minority that could actually initiate impeachment are House and Senate Republicans that have pissed away what political capital they have on making themselves look like petulant children.

  • Question of Auban||

    It will be more than a tiny minority when it takes a wheel barrel full of hundreds to buy a loaf of bread and the local TV station can no longer afford to buy new episodes of American Idol and Honey Boo Boo.Panem et circenses only works if people can afford bread and circuses.

  • SugarFree||

    And what will most people do when they are at that point? Blame Republicans. Obama will walk away smelling like roses.

    The Republicans are not credible on the subject of budget cutting because of the military, and Obama's propaganda arm is huge.

  • Question of Auban||

    More and more people are realizing that both major parties are corrupt - that is a good thing. I think both parties will be blamed by all but the most partisan minded.

  • wareagle||

    SF,
    I think you overestimate Obama's walk away ability. Yes, Repubs are self-made morons but the Obama veneer is wearing thin.

  • SugarFree||

    Yes, Repubs are self-made morons but the Obama veneer is wearing thin.

    I'd like to think that, but it seems to me that the veneer is thinning at the same rate the delusions are thickening.

    I'm not inclined to be a complete pessimist, but the defense of Obama will become more impassioned and impervious to facts as it becomes clear that defending Obama's record is the only hope for electing a Democrat to replace him. And the obvious psychological fact that most people would rather look insane (ignoring the reality of this administration's gross failures) that admit that they were wrong (to vote for Obama.)

  • DenverJay||

    Uhh, not to nit-pick, but the bread and circuses were actually free (well, paid for with tax-dollars), that was the bribe paid to the plebeians not to riot.
    But I do like the reference to the wheel-barrows full of money to buy bread; Weimar Republic here we come!

  • Rich||

    Well said. The administration's nefarious plan is doomed to fail!

  • grey||

    I'm afraid there will be riots even if he leaves office due to an expired term. As wareagle says, it's pathological devotion like you see with dictators and religious figures. I think Clinton's team glueing drawers shut in the WH is the least of what we can expect if Blue team doesn't keep the WH.

  • DarrenM||

    I'm afraid there will be riots even if he leaves office due to an expired term.

    I can see Obama instigating a riot (in such a way as to shift the blame, of course) some time after he leaves office and takes his "community organizing" to the national level.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    To his surprise, the Republicans went along with this. They did so-

    Because that can is so easy to kick, and down the road looked to be someone else's problem.

  • WTF||

    Well that's just it, isn't it? No one wants to tell the electorate 'no, you can't just have more and more no matter the cost' and be swept out of office by the ensuing tantrum. So it is actually in the personal short-term interest of the pols to make the problem worse by pushing the ultimate reckoning down the road.

  • Question of Auban||

    But I want my free pony!!!! I demand my free pony!!!! Waaa!! Waaa!!!!

  • ||

    They arent even pretending to be legitimate anymore.

    There is no one to blame but ourselves.

  • ||

    I blame yourselves also.

  • Question of Auban||

    "There is no one to blame but ourselves."

    Collective self-flagellation serves no purpose. Unless you voted for Obama because you wanted free stuff you are NOT part of the problem. There is no reason to say "There is no one to blame but ourselves." Unless you are indeed one of the people demanding free stuff paid for by stolen money.

  • ||

    Didnt vote for the piece of shit and have never taken a penny from the fedgov.

  • Question of Auban||

    Good for you! You are NOT part of the problem.

  • Ted S.||

    I didn't vote for any of these mofos.

  • Question of Auban||

    I am thinking of becoming a non-voter as well. I have thought about it as well, it is becoming more apparent that voting changes nothing. I don't think there will be another Ron Paul for a very long time, what is the point now?

  • Rich||

    Q, if you haven't yet read this, do so. It'll help you make your decision.

  • Question of Auban||

    Thank you.

  • DarrenM||

    I am thinking of becoming a non-voter as well.

    Just vote against the incumbent. It makes decision-making much easier. Even with the current situation, you can at least shoot for a divided government. This is still better than one-party rule.

  • GroundTruth||

    Much as I hate to disagree with Mr. Napolitano, although he is quite correct in stating that this is only a *reduction in overall spending increases* (i.e. increases still occur, they are just not as much as previous hoped for by the President and his buddies), because of the cynical political need to completely exempt certain programs from the sequester (the actual social security checks being sent out, actual SNAP checks being sent out, etc), other agencies (EPA, NASA, etc) take a true reduction in "planned" spending. I'm neither defending nor condemning and of those cuts, but simply stating that absolute clarity of what is happening is required of both sides of the argument. Since the spenders won't be clear, it is even more incumbent upon the cutters to take even greater pains to be accurate.

  • Ted S.||

    Because what we need are Five-Year Plans.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    "devastating small increase"

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Sure, sure. Like how my employer gave me a 3% raise instead of 5%, and now instead of champagne and caviar on the Riviera like last year, it's going to be dog food and gutter water, and I may have to put my kids up for adoption. All thanks to a devastating cut in my planned spending.

    Fuck their plans.

  • jessie||

    I would feel a lot better about this situation if Reason would get it's $%#& together and tell one story.

    MSM says that budget cuts for this year are $85 billion and that for the following years, the budget increases. CBO report says the same thing.

    Nick Gillespie says that, while there are budget cuts, the cuts for this year are only $44B.

    Andrew Napolitano says that there are no budget cuts this year at all.

  • Bam!||

    The exact amount depends on your definition of "budget", "cut", and "year".

  • Question of Auban||

    It depends on what the definition of "is" is.

  • Question of Auban||

    This reminds me of the discussion about the difference between Le Monde and Le Monde diplomatique. Jean-Marie Colombani, former editor of the daily Le Monde, was attributed by Le Monde diplomatique's former director general Bernard Cassen as saying: "Le Monde diplomatique is a journal of opinion; Le Monde is a journal of opinions."

  • JWatts||

    My impression, which may be totally wrong, was the the sequester cut the budget from the baseline by $85B. However, the budget had $41B of automatic growth built in. So what we really have is a $44B net cut from previous spending levels.

  • Bob Straub||

    What "budget"? I thought that the federal government hasn't had one for 3+ years.
    Also: in 2010 there were 1,865,000 federal civilian employees with an average "pay" of $73,908. (I assume those numbers are both bigger now, but I don't know.) There are overheads that add 20%-25% to the cost of employing someone, so cost to the government must be more like $100,000 per employee, in round numbers. If the cuts in 2013 spending were really $85B, and if all of the cuts for 2013 were cuts in numbers of jobs, that works out to about 85,000 jobs, or 3% of the workforce. Will 3% fewer TSA people result in drastically longer check-in times? $44B in job cuts corresponds to only about a 1.5% cut in the workforce. And if not all cuts are job cuts, the percentage is even lower.
    More: Won't this be a one-time actual cut, even though the sequester is for ten years? Next year, spending will increase over this year, and the "cuts" will really be cuts in planned increases, so there would only be few new hires, not more actual job cuts. Am I right about all this?
    I will be polite and say that the Prez is being disingenuous in his warnings of gloom, if not doom, over the sequester.

  • Bob Straub||

    "few"

  • Bob Straub||

    "few" s.b. "fewer".

  • grey||

    Tomorrow is doomsday; how will you function with 1% degraded federal services, are you ready?

  • Loki||

    But he cannot just intentionally release prisoners or weaken the military or inflict maddening delays on the flying public in order to make his fearful warnings come to pass.

    Wanna bet?

    if the president enforces the laws so that they hurt rather than work well just so he can say "I told you so" rather than "I'll work with you," then he will be inviting his own political misery or even his own impeachment.

    With a sycophantic media sucking his cock and Republicans in the house to blame for everything? Yeah, right.

  • wwhorton||

    The Republicans in the House sort of remind me of how the CCP keeps a few minority parties around (those are what the small stars in the Chinese flag represent, btw) so that it can say that it's listening to alternative opinions. Conveniently, the CCP can also periodically blame any problems in government on dissenters throwing a wrench in the works out of spite. Sound familiar?

  • Oaken45||

    uptil I looked at the check of $6418, I didn't believe that my sister was realie earning money parttime on their apple labtop.. there mums best friend started doing this for only fifteen months and just took care of the dept on there home and got Smart ForTwo. we looked here, http://WWW.FLY38.COM

  • Jgarcia||

    Perfect article.
    Thanks for talking about reality then some hocus pocus fear tactics that's spread thorough out the media.

  • Sevo||

    OT
    Obozo's views on gay marriage are still 'evolving':
    "Obama nears deadline on gay marriage decision"
    http://www.sfgate.com/news/pol.....315169.php
    Too close to call; is there at least one more vote if he does support it?

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  • Brazen||

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  • Brazen||

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