Should a miracle occur and the pending sequester actually kick in to reduce the growth of federal spending—said slowdown derided as “draconian budget cuts” even as actual spending rises—the political playing field will shift to new ground. The moment big-spending Democrats wrap up their “save us from sequester” theatrics and dump this Obama-originated bipartisan idea squarely onto the Republicans’ laps, they will pivot to a new narrative. After four years of justifying the abysmal Obama economic recovery using the mantra, “It could have been worse!” they will shift the narrative, aided by the mainstream media, to “It’s all their fault!”
Why is the economy back in recession? “The sequester; it’s all their fault!” Why is the official unemployment rate stuck close to 8 percent and the real unemployment rate over 16 percent? “The sequester; it’s all their fault!” Why has Quantitative Easing been a failure? “The sequester; it’s all their fault!” Why are sales down at Walmart, the murder rate up in Chicago, global currency war looming, the Arab Spring floundering, and Obamacare a bust? You guessed it. “The sequester; it’s all their fault!”
And why not? “It’s all Bush’s fault” worked for four years. Why tamper with a winning formula?
Just as every newsworthy weather event these days is blamed on global warming, every negative economic report between now and the 2014 midterm elections will be blamed on obstructionist Republicans, their ill-advised sequester, and their determination to ruin an otherwise recovering economy just to make Obama look bad. The only way to fix it? Hand total control of all three branches of government to the party that really knows how to party.
Obama didn’t even wait for the sequester to take effect before going back on the campaign trail, baying media lap dogs at the ready. Leading the pack will be former Enron advisor Paul Krugman (no doubt lamenting the fact that the recent meteor strike hit the Ural Mountains and not Central Park; just think of all the economic growth those broken windows could have fueled by being replaced.) Then watch as macroeconomist shock troops wielding reverse magic multipliers transmogrify every sequestered dollar that might have been spent by Uncle Sam, but was instead left in the hands of people who earned it, into a “GDP deflater.”
Will the electorate buy it? Probably. Let’s face it; innumerate, low information voters all too often decide elections. As many more come to depend on the hundreds of federal programs polite people no longer call the dole, it will only get increasingly harder to escape the economic insanity that now prevails as common wisdom. Only the next economic catastrophe, set to occur when the global monetary system blows up, has a chance of waking up America’s new majority. And when it does, there is no telling what kind of demagogue they will turn to for salvation. History offers little comfort.
So enjoy these last two weeks of the great sequester debate as alternative proposals get more and more preposterous, dire warnings grow more shrill, old bull Republicans shuck and jive looking for a rock to hide under, and Tea Partiers hunker down for a long siege. If you think this is as dysfunctional as democracy gets, just wait—and keep your eyes on Greece.
Living as we do in a reflated bubble, lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis, misinformed by journalists and pundits so deeply invested in the Leviathan state that they can no longer imagine what life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness look like, there are few places where one can take refuge from the gathering storm.
But at least we will know whom to blame.