The United States federal government has become a reality show filled with drama; Call them the Real Housewives of D.C.
America’s elected officials have been all over the airwaves this week talking about the potential effects of the sequestration cuts that will take effect Friday morning. Here’s a quick list of some of the areas they say will see the harshest cuts:
• Teachers will be laid off
• Air traffic controllers will be furloughed
• Three-hour security waits at airports
• Food safety inspectors won’t be able to do their jobs
• I.C.E. detention centers that hold illegal immigrants have to be cut and illegals have been released
• Attorney General Eric Holder claims America will be less safe
• 200,000 American troops could be cut
• Head Start programs will see their funding slashed
• Flyovers at professional sports contests will cease
• Buying a gun will take longer with delayed background checks
• Federal prosecutors will close cases and let criminals go
• Health care programs for poor children will also be cut
The scare tactics don’t stop there. President Barack Obama said these cuts will be a “big hit to the economy,” adding the country could “lose up to 0.6 percent, maybe a little bit more, of economic growth.” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, “kids are gonna get hurt, kids are gonna get hurt. That’s just the reality.”
Even Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer jumped on the reality show approach to governing. She said the sequestration cuts could revive the recession in the state because Arizona could lose up to $140 million in federal money. The media is playing their role as well. The state’s major newspaper is running a story with the headline Ariz. schools, students would be hurt by cuts.
Let’s set the record straight. As Bruce St. James noted, sequestration isn’t even a cut. It’s a decrease in the growth of spending. As the rap group Public Enemy used to warn, “Don’t Believe the Hype.”
Meanwhile, here are a couple of programs that could be cut Friday but that wouldn’t create any drama:
• Government conferences. Those cost taxpayers about $340 million per year
• Foreign aid. The US just decided to grant the Syrian rebels $60 million.
• Pork projects. In 2011 alone there were $16.5 billion worth of them
The scare tactics are a political tactic. It’s called the “fireman first” principle. Reason Magazine’s Matt Welch writes about how it is designed to freak Americans out on CNN.com.
Washington Monthly founder Charles Peters coined in 1976 as the “firemen first” principle — the notion that “the public will support (the Clever Bureaucrat’s) valiant fight against the budget reduction only if essential services are endangered. Thus, C.B. always picks on teachers, policemen, firemen first.”
Why? Again, it comes back to drama. It’s an attempt to make the American people panic. That’s the reality show in which the American political system is currently operating.
Thankfully, this time the scare tactics aren’t working. President Obama is already backing off the doom and gloom predictions and though that may be the case, the true problem with this reality show is voters don’t seem willing to vote the stars off the island.