On Sequestration, Obama Wants to Have His Cake and Eat It, Too

It was Obama who proposed the sequester, it was Obama who signed it into law, and it was Obama who threatened to veto any changes.

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President Barack Obama offers up a toast as he welcomes the governors of the National Governors Association to the 2013 Governors Dinner at the White House in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013.
President Barack Obama offers up a toast as he welcomes the governors of the National Governors Association at the White House Feb. 24.

Though someone is almost certain to do so, no one has yet figured out how much President Barack Obama's all-star antisequester traveling road show is costing U.S. taxpayers. The amount is probably considerable, which should make for interesting optics at a time when the automatic budget cuts that originated in White House are almost to take effect.

It hasn't. If it were George W. Bush who was traveling to places like Newport News, Va., to rail against the looming sequester, one suspects America would know to the penny how much was being spent on fuel for Air Force One, the security vehicles, the staff time involved, and perhaps even the cost of the productivity lost while workers sat idle listening to the president speak.

Because it's Barack Obama, however, it's all in on laying the blame for the sequester at the feet of the Republicans, who have twice passed through the House of Representatives legislation to deal with the situation in a responsible manner only to see it die at the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate.

[ Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Obama may be winning the argument. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll discovered that 52 percent of the 1,000 adults surveyed thought the sequester, which automatically forces across-the-board cuts of $120 billion per year in federal spending over 10 years, was a bad idea while just 21 percent—less than a quarter—thought it was a good idea.

Then again, Obama may be losing it. That same poll found that a combined 53 percent of those surveyed "prefer that Congress move ahead with the current sequester cuts or a plan that contains even more cuts" while only 37 percent want fewer cuts than are automatically scheduled.

Responding to a different question, "exactly half of respondents" said Obama and GOP congressional leaders "should work together to avoid the sequester cuts from taking place, while 46 percent believe the cuts—while not perfect—should go into effect."

[ See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

No one really knows what is going on right now or if the cuts are going to go into effect as scheduled. There is always the chance of another last minute deal that will, to employ an expression that is already much overused, "kick the can" even further down the road. The White House is banking on the idea that the cuts will hurt and that the public will identify the Republicans as the source of their newfound pain. And they are trying to maximize the fear quotient that is part of the national conversation for political advantage.

Not every Republican is taking that lying down, however. Kansas GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo—who supports the sequester and has been attacked by name by the White House for that support—fired off a strongly worded statement challenging the veracity of the president and of presidential spokesman Jay Carney—who asked from the pressroom pulpit what Pompeo would say to defense workers who face a furlough because of the sequester.

"Mr. Carney doesn't understand that not every public official is willing to play games with lives of hard-working Americans for political gain like his boss, President Obama," Pompeo said in a statement released by his office Tuesday. "I said that the sequester is a home run not because it is good politics, but because it begins to put America back on the right fiscal track."

[ See a collection of political cartoons on sequestration and the fiscal cliff.]

"I would welcome the opportunity to tell the 90,000 furloughed workers," Pompeo continued, "the ones President Obama is choosing to let go of, that they need to know several things:"

  • First, the sequester does not have to mean furloughs. The President is choosing to make this minor reduction in spending painful—by furloughing people—in order to pursue his twin goals of raising taxes and increasing the size of the federal government. The President wasted $1 trillion dollars of stimulus money that did nothing to grow our economy and create jobs. Now, he is needlessly using a decrease in federal spending amounting to less than a few percent to harm even more American workers and their families.
  • Second, there are fewer Americans working in America today than when the President took office. I find it bizarre that Mr. Carney would ask me about talking to furloughed workers. I've been talking to and representing thousands of furloughed and laid-off workers in Kansas who have lost their livelihood because of this President's failed economic policies and his consistent attacks on the general aviation industry. Before President Obama's reckless deficits, general aviation was a robust manufacturing jewel providing high-paying jobs in the Air Capital of the World.  Today, he continues to cause it pain.
  • Third, Mr. Carney says that this isn't a home-run for average Americans. He is wrong. While there will surely be dislocations, the President's $6 trillion in new federal debt have been a strikeout for our country. Most Americans understand the need to stop year-on-year trillion dollar deficits. For them, we should have done even more to reduce the size of our federal government. The sequester is a solid first step. Growing American prosperity will require us to hit a grand slam on reducing spending, taxation, and regulation. I look forward to being part of making that happen.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

As Pompeo and other members of the GOP have continually pointed out, it was Obama who proposed the sequester, it was Obama who signed it into law, and it was Obama who threatened to veto any changes to it. The Republicans have put alternatives on the table but the president is standing firm in his demands for higher tax revenues rather than sending a different set of cuts up to Capitol Hill. Nor has the president, in public anyway, put any pressure on Reid and the other Democrats in the Senate to do something to avert what he wants everyone to believe is an oncoming train wreck. Once again, Obama wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Only time will tell if he gets to.