(Originally published in 2013,, as “Sequestration Pain Management” at the beginning of Obama’s second term, this is repeated with no changes.)
Since LBJ’s Great Society we have spent $15 TRILLION dollars on the war on poverty. Put another way, the American working taxpayer has spent $15 trillion dollars.
It goes without saying we have nothing to show for it. Poverty rolls are higher, not lower. Welfare recipients’ horizons are lower, not higher. That damned ladder out of the hole has been removed altogether, replaced by even more inducements (freebies) to stay there.
It was easier to tunnel under the Berlin Wall than get out from under welfare in America.
And Americans, since Reagan, just fifteen years into the Great Society, when the War on Poverty’s tab was only about a trillion dollars, people who worked and paid for this monstrosity everywhere were saying “cut it back,” cut it to the bone.
Well, almost everywhere. For you see, only 30%, thirty cents on the dollar of that 15 trillion went to the people living in those holes in the first place. The rest goes to the House Man, providing good jobs, new cars up to and including Mercedes and BMW’s, homes in the suburbs, swimming pools, and annual retreats to Vegas, Waikiki, and the Bahamas, without a single chance in hell of ever being fired or laid off.
But suddenly some may now be sequestered.
The day we start laying them off, for even one day a week, or a month, we will be treated to a cacophony of pain and angst about these poor miserable creatures’ ability to get on in life. Imagine having to pass by the chilled Vlasic’s and go straight to the warm Heinz dills in Aisle 3. Or having to choose between country club dues and ballet lessons, Georgetown Law or Ohio State. Neiman Marcus or Kohls; the keg party for Skip’s graduation (middle school). Oh God, the ignominy of it all.
But while some of America’s government workers face a 20% pay cut (for awhile at least, with some guarantee they will be reimbursed later on, once the American people finally come to their senses)…
…20% of America’s work force has already been laid off permanently.
So compare how the two “loss” sectors are being portrayed in order to revisit our sense of both proportion and priorities.
When America’s economy went into the toilet after the crash of ’29, daily news and reels were all about the suffering and pain of the working people who lost jobs…as long as a Republican was in the White House. Every place homeless people gathered to sleep for the night was called “Hooverville.” The songs were dirges.
That is, until February 23rd, 1933, when all this misery just up and disappeared. Things were looking up. Hobos suddenly became a quaint curiosity, smiling and humming “Big Rock Candy Mountain” instead of the “Song of the Volga Boatmen.” Unemployment dropped from around 24% to 16%, but then just sat there until they re-instituted the draft in 1940. The media didn’t tell the people that last part.
In the late 70’s, magazines were filled with interesting, even funny, stories about life on the streets for America’s homeless. They were the last of America’s free spirits. I remember one story in Natural History Magazine chronicling the romps and capers for this miserable lot, until the day after Reagan was inaugurated. Overnight they became America’s blight and greatest shame.
In the 1930s the best FDR could do was skim 40% off the top to feed his new Beast. But then the Beast was only in knee pants, and the working part of the American economy in full midlife vigor.
Today we are witnessing a repeat of 1933 and 1981, only this time the Republicans didn’t have to be in charge. They only have to be to blame, Bush in ’08, the GOP House in ’13.
Suddenly we are already hearing tales of woe about laid-off government workers, who never built any of those things in the song you just heard. Most galling to me is that my local radio station, a hardcore conservative station, but also Fox News affiliate, feeds this sympathy lust by sounding just like all the major news organization, in broken record fashion, every day tugging at our heart strings over the 15,000 government employees in Hampton Roads who will feel this searing pain of wallets 20% lighter.
Just trust that you will never see a GS-14 paraded in front of a camera. You’ll never see the anguish in his face as he has to choose between the $35 Pinot Noire and Wine-In-A-Box.
You’ll never see that because it won’t happen.
Obama’s Maximum Pain Rule
Think of medical triage, then think of its opposite.
When it comes to delivering pain, Obama leaves fairness on the backdoor step. Never has even a Democrat behaved as cynically and indifferently as this President and his Administration. They see their own workforce as nothing more than pawns in a grand game and will insure maximum damage to those who will provide the best optics. Nothing more.
There is no such thing as essential and non-essential workers to this mob, just the ones who can present themselves to the media as the ones most visibly anguished and harmed.
Let me remind you that there are two or three non-essential government agencies, which, had Herman Cain been elected, would already be looking for work at Arby’s and Best Buy. They will be untouched, unless their absence will hurt the general public in some way, which is the first criteria for selecting who gets sequestered and who doesn’t.
In Defense, we know not to expect there to be any relationship between DOD furloughs (since Obama probably has no intention of ever restoring that last pay cut) and the actual needs of national defense. He will hurt where it hurts the most, to actually stir anger, and of course, cause the GOP to come calling (crawling) and demanding (asking) for that money to be restored to DOD at whatever exchange rate Obama might decide.
But that is politics, and since the GOP plays this game so well (sic), don’t hold out hope too long.
But there is also a real life economics, math, even cultural and political survival to consider. A game played only with nature.
Everyone, EVERYONE, including many Democrats, know the budget must be cut and the size of government reduced…significantly. The Democrats simply want to bleed the golden goose dry before deciding to do that, some years hence, forgetting that after 70 years of lying with their math, they’re none too good at real math anymore, and the goose, America’s producing goose, is a lot more under-nourished than they know. They’ve been believing their own stuff.
And since the LBJ days, they’ve been wanting to slash Defense’s cut of the national budget pie, again failing to see that Defense is only 20% of the national budget today, compared to 70% at the height of the Cold War, and 50% at the end of the Vietnam War. That portion of the goose is already cooked. It can’t get any thinner.
Still, I think most expert bureaucracy-busters would agree that even 10% of DOD’s personnel and front office (admin) costs can still be cut.
But in the rest of government, 20% minimum.
But in order to do this the public has to understand the sympathetic lie the media is playing, when, once we do this, they will parade all those people who’ve been sacked, as if they were earthquake victims in Armenia.
The first rule of tough love here has to be that if we are to survive as a viable nation, much less free one, the first rule of triage is to save the private sector working taxpayers, the people who actually fell the timber, and clear and plow the land, and let the non-essential appendages go. Think of the bureaucracy as America’s appendix. They may have been useful at one point in human history, but God knows, no one can figure what that is now.
As to who’s non-essential? Just count up the people who don’t have to show up when it snows in the District.