Though we've come to expect no better from our leaders in Washington, the sequestration lies rank among the most blatant whoppers ever to come out of the nation's capital.
Sequestration, of course, is the $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to go into effect at midnight Friday.
Instead of working together to come up with an alternative to replace the sequester, Republicans and Democrats have spent the past several weeks playing a maddening game of political chicken.
Both parties were counting on the fear of sequestration to force the other to cave before it happened.
Toward that end, leaders of both sides have tried to sway public opinion with exaggerations, obfuscations and outright lies.
Yes, business as usual in Washington, but an affront to U.S. citizens nonetheless.
Here are some of the biggest sequestration lies.
The 9 Biggest Sequestration Lies
- The Blame Game: Both sides have accused the other of being responsible for sequestration. President Barack Obama said it was Congress' idea; Republicans say it was the president's idea. According to The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, the idea did originate with the White House, but Republicans quickly endorsed it, and most GOP and Democratic legislators voted for it. So they're all responsible.
- Half Off: Although neither Republicans nor Democrats dispute the $85 billion amount attributed to sequestration, the spending cuts that will actually happen in 2013 add up to only $44 billion. The other $41 billion is money that is "authorized" to be spent in later years.
- They've Got the Power: Something else neither side likes to talk about is that we're not stuck irrevocably with the consequences of sequestration once the Friday deadline passes. Congress could pass a plan to address it the next day, or a week later, or a month later. The longer lawmakers wait, the worse it will be, of course. But both sides prefer the sense of panic the deadline has created.
- Think of the Children I: Education Secretary Arne Duncan said on Sunday's "Face the Nation" program, "There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can't come back this fall." But when The Washington Post checked into it, it found just one county in West Virginia sending out transfer notices, and that action was not related to sequestration.
- Think of the Children II: The Obama administration has warned that 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs. The Post calls this "guesswork at best," since state and local governments have already received their federal money for this year. It would be months before any real impact from sequestration hits schools, giving them time to figure out ways to avoid many of the layoffs.
- You're Grounded: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said last week that more that 100 air traffic control towers would close because sequestration cuts would force furloughs of air traffic controllers. But because federal workers require 30 days' notice, any furloughs could not begin until April at the earliest, and Congress could use that time to authorize funding to pay the controllers' salaries.
- Brace for Impact: Similarly, President Obama has warned that thousands of first responders will lose their jobs, federal food inspectors will be laid off, aid for the poor wiped out. But with the sequester cuts taking place over seven months – the remainder of the budget year – the impact won't be as sudden and dramatic as the Democrats have implied. Nor will the effects be as negligible as some Republicans have suggested. The truth is, no one knows for certain just how bad – or not so bad – the cuts will be.
- Just Google It: House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, has said that President Obama "has no plan" to avert sequestration. Yet the official White House Website does indeed have a plan (though Republicans might not find it acceptable since it includes new revenues).
- Read My Lips: During the final presidential debate in October, President Obama declared that sequestration "will not happen." Whoops.
Related Articles and News:
- Money Morning:
What Does the Sequestration Mean for Investors?
- Money Morning:
The Sequestration Follies: How Washington Outsmarted Itself
- Washington Post:
Sequester spin gets ahead of reality
The sequester starts Friday. Then what?
- RealClear Politics:
The Sequester Doesn't Cut Nearly Enough