I have lived through America’s past disasters: Vietnam. Watergate. Disco.
We survived them all. We have grown strong at the broken places.
But now the pols have come up with a new word to panic us: sequester.
It is supposed to scare us witless. But, in truth, hearing a politician tell us, “We are heading toward sequester,” is really no scarier than hearing the words, “I don’t like the looks of that mole,” or, “Welcome to Carnival Cruise Lines.”
The sequester was designed to be so horrible that both the Republicans and Democrats in Congress would recoil from it.
All sorts of things will be cut under a sequester: border security, airport security, Head Start, public housing support, NASA, special education, the FBI, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and national defense.
But do you know what does not get cut? Take a guess. That’s right: The salaries of senators and representatives do not get cut under sequester.
Congressional staffers — those people who actually read and write the laws, get coffee and have to go before the cameras to explain why their boss has been found in a Motel 6 with a pole dancer named Mercedes Dee Lite — face a 20 percent pay cut through furloughs.
But members of Congress? Their six-figure salaries will continue to roll in, even as money to Medicare patients gets cut.
So why did anybody expect Congress to be repelled by a sequester?
Sure, members of Congress might have to figure out how to put those plastic coffee pods in the machines themselves, but these people are not fools. They will order out. If they can figure out how to work the telephones.
True, the doomsayers say that our national defense will be cut by $42.7 billion. But this still leaves billions and billions for pork: armaments that don’t work and weapons systems that not even the Pentagon wants. Members of Congress insist on spending this money, however, to show voters they can bring home the bacon.
The current fallback plan under sequestration is to make sure there is enough left in the defense budget to pile sandbags around John Boehner.
True, our border defense might temporarily suffer. But so what if Mexico retakes Texas? It was theirs to begin with. And you can’t make an omelet without breaking some huevos.
But even before the first shots have been fired — and our troops may be limited to five bullets and three sharpened sticks each — there has been some collateral damage.
Journalism legend Bob Woodward has written an article saying that President Barack Obama has been fibbing about who is to blame for sequester. This led journalism legend-in-training Ezra Klein to say Woodward has been fibbing about Obama.
I carefully read every word of each reporter’s detailed and nuanced arguments. Which is a lie. I read some tweets about both. And it seems that Woodward and Klein both seem to think we should care what our politicians have said in the past. As the French, who are preparing to take back the Louisiana Purchase, would say, “Tres drole.” (You jest, dude.)
Woodward personally has enough money to erase the U.S. deficit, rendering sequester moot. He won’t do it, however, because he believes people should be taught how to fish rather than giving them a fish. Speaking of which, why is Wendy’s running commercials bragging about its “North Pacific Cod”? Does “cod” really sound appealing no matter where it comes from? I would much rather Wendy’s say, “Our burgers come from North American cows and do not include hooves and lips.”
But I digress. Last Friday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was brought into the White House briefing room to tell reporters the utter havoc that sequester would wreak on the American public by cutting $600 million from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Safety would not be compromised, LaHood said, but: “Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco and others could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because we have fewer controllers on staff.”
Delays of up to 90 minutes? You mean shorter delays than we have now?
Sequester — bring it on!
Roger Simon is editor of Politico.