Happy Sequester Eve, Everyone!

Better live it up, folks. To hear Washington tell it, today is what crazy people thought December 20, 2012 was going to be – your last opportunity to make peace with your God. Sequester is coming tomorrow, so for the love of everything holy, screw your courage to the sticking place. Just listen to the left:

If Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job creating investments in education and energy and medical research

Gahhh! A meat cleaver! SO VISCERAL. And the right:

Far more important, the sequester will endanger national security—cutting the military abruptly and arbitrarily to levels far below what Republicans have ever thought desirable.

All those preppers are looking pretty smart now, huh? They will be ready when we go hacking away, willy-nilly, with all these cuts –

Actually, they’re not cuts. They’re reductions in projected baseline increases. So we’re not even belt tightening, we’re just continuing to unbuckle our belt, Thanksgiving coma-style, but at a slightly slower rate than before. The sequester would “slow” growth by $85 billion….out of a pre-sequester budget of $3.64 trillion. That’s 2.3%.

So why the histrionics? Well, if you’re a neoconservative and you want us to be able to kill as many brown people as possible regardless of what country they’re in or whether we’re at war with them or even if they’re an American citizen, the lowest possible amount of military spending you could be okay with is obviously whatever we’re spending right now. And if you’re a progressive, you’re operating on the similar premise that, as George Will put it, “whatever the government’s size is at any moment, it is the bare minimum necessary to forestall intolerable suffering.” (Amazing how President Obama actually falls into BOTH camps, isn’t it? Post-partisanship!).

And on top of these broad philosophies, you have the people, bureaus and agencies that will actually face changes, who have a vested interest in making things sound dire (bold mine):

Painting a bleak picture, LaHood told reporters “it’s going to be very painful for the flying public” if the cuts kick in at the end of the month.

Overall, the Department of Transportation would need to cut roughly $1 billion from its $74.2 billion budget, less than 2 percent. More than $600 million of the cuts would come from the FAA, which would be forced to furlough the majority of its nearly 47,000 employees.

As a result, travelers could expect delays of up to 90 minutes at major airports like New York, Chicago and San Francisco because there would be fewer controllers on staff and some flight towers at smaller airports could close temporarily.

“You’ve got a big budget. Can’t you find some other way to cut that without telling air traffic controllers to stay home?” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl asked.

“That’s a lot of money, Jonathan,” the secretary, a Republican, replied.

Now, a more cynical person would say that LaHood would love for you to have delays, for the same reason you don’t quite hope things glide along effortlessly when you spend an extended amount of time away from the office. It’s very much in the interests of the government to make feel every dollar of that $85 billion, to the point where you find yourself saying “Holy crap – 97.7% of what we originally had budgeted is just not enough.” I wish someone would just come out and admit they’re hoping for that. Oh, wait:

“It’s like that old saying, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone,'” Holubowich said.

Do you? Do you know when you’ve got nearly 98% of what you were originally planning on having? In an ideal world, all of this would spark a realization of how much waste there is and how we could be smarter about how we allocate our resources (I mean, do you think private companies have ever encountered a 2.3% drop in the expected increase of their budget? I wonder if they freaked out and furloughed everybody.). But of course, I’m fully expecting the opposite to happen, as various entities clamber over each other to show how they are being hit in the way that is most damaging to the ‘Merica we know and love.

“First they came for the flyovers, and I said nothing, because this is beyond idiotic.

It’s hard to describe what a pittance of a deficit reduction this is because the manufactured drama around it has made it borderline hilarious. It’s as if there were weeks of agonizing and name-calling over who was going to start the rubber game of a September series for the 2012 Cubs. These reductions amount to 0.03% of our GDP.

I’m 29. This week has quashed any faint hope I had remaining that we will ever see anything even approaching fiscal responsibility in my lifetime. But let’s not end on that note – at least it’s March tomorrow.

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