Yes, Sequestration Is Actually Bad

The Daily Beast

Pundits said President Obama was crying wolf on sequestration. Turns out the wolf is real, says former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau in his debut Daily Beast column.

From the outset, Washington never treated the sequester with the seriousness it deserves. And really, who would have expected otherwise? The word is a verb being used as a noun to describe $85 billion in defense and domestic discretionary cuts to the federal budget. I almost fell asleep just writing that sentence.

Federal Employees Protest Cuts Related to Sequestration
Federal Employees Protest Cuts Related to Sequestration

Much of the political press lost interest in covering the substance of policy debates late last century, so it wasn’t too surprising that by February, some reporters were bitterly tweeting about how particularly boring they found this sequester business. The Pack quickly turned its attention elsewhere, collectively freaking out over something Bob Woodward said about something Gene Sperling said about something Bob Woodward wrote in a book that was published more than a year ago, which gave Bob Woodward the generous helping of media attention he craved all along. Good for him!


Meanwhile, Republican leaders in Congress publicly and repeatedly rejected any budget deal that included even a dime more in taxes from anyone, ever, for as long as we all shall live, an obviously flexible position that many pundits believed could be easily changed with just one more invite to a White House mixer. But alas, the invite never came, for if there’s one thing a president who earned more votes than any Democrat in history can’t stomach, it’s people.

On March 1, the day sequestration took effect, President Obama addressed the nation: “Now, what’s important to understand is that not everyone will feel the pain of these cuts right away. The pain, though, will be real.” This led patient political observers at The Washington Post and Politico to wait five long days before penning two pieces with nearly identical headlines: “Did President Obama cry wolf on the sequester?” and “Now Dems worry: Did President Obama cry wolf?” Evidence for the shiny, new narrative came directly from the Post’s own fact checker, who unleashed a full arsenal of Pinocchios on the president for claiming that sequestration would lead to a cut in pay for Capitol Hill janitors. The truth? The president should have said it would lead to a cut in overtime for Capitol Hill janitors, causing them to … earn less pay. Honestly, how does the man even sleep at night?

One month and 5 billion cable hits on White House tours later, a flurry of great reporting is allowing us to answer for ourselves the question of whether President Obama has “cried wolf.” If we want, we can ask the Americans who are losing their jobs at military bases in Tennessee, Illinois, and Virginia. We can ask the health-care employees facing layoffs in New York, or the contractors in Oklahoma, or the teachers in Iowa, or the workers cleaning up nuclear waste in Washington. We can ask the children in Ohio and Pennsylvania who will no longer receive the early education that Head Start provides. We can ask the scientists and researchers at Duke and the University of Florida who must end their pursuit of discoveries that could change or save lives. We can ask the hungry families in Utah who can no longer rely on the local food pantry, the disabled tenants in California who will lose their housing vouchers, the elderly cancer patients in South Carolina who are being denied their chemotherapy treatment, or the 39-year-old Army veteran in Marylandwho believes the only way to survive his pay cut is with another combat deployment.

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