In a few days," President Obama said earlier this week, "Congress might allow a series of immediate, painful, arbitrary budget cuts to take place -- known in Washington as the sequester. Instead of cutting out the government spending we don't need -- wasteful programs that don't work, special-interest tax loopholes and tax breaks -- what the sequester does is it uses a meat-cleaver approach to gut critical investments in things like education and national security and lifesaving medical research."
The "arbitrary" cuts begin today, but they didn't have to. Senate Republicans listened to Obama. Although they didn't yield to his demand for a tax increase, they did propose a bill that would allow Obama to implement the sequester in a more rational way that "cut out the government spending we don't need" while mitigating the effect of the cut on the most important programs. "It's up to him to manage it efficiently and effectively, and we're trying to give him the maximum flexibility to do that," Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told The Washington Examiner on Wednesday.
But Obama balked at the proposal, demonstrating the insincerity of his earlier rhetoric. "Now, lately, some people have been saying, 'Well, maybe we'll just give the president some flexibility,'" he said. "You don't want to have to choose between, let's see, do I close funding for the disabled kid or the poor kid? Do I close this Navy shipyard or some other one? When you're doing things in a way that's not smart, you can't gloss over the pain and the impact it's going to have on the economy."
If he really feels this way, perhaps he should step down and let someone else do the job. After four years in office, is Obama completely unaware that the presidency involves responsibilities and hard choices?
Obama subsequently threatened to veto the flexibility proposal, thus ensuring that it would never pass the Senate. His complaint about the bill, according to the White House's official statement, was that "nothing is asked of the wealthiest Americans." In other words, unless he can have his second tax increase in two months, he wants the "painful, arbitrary" cuts. Never mind the fact that the sequester was originally Obama's idea -- he owns it now simply by this arrogant veto threat.
As we have previously noted in this space, Obama has wildly exaggerated the damage that sequestration will cause. His Cabinet secretaries have also had difficulty telling the truth or exercising judgement regarding the cuts. The Obama White House has even complained about budget cuts to at least one agency that no longer exists. His transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, wants to shut down airports and force Americans to wait in long lines, even though his agency budget increases year-over-year. His education secretary, Arne Duncan, was caught in a lie when he claimed that some teachers in West Virginia were being laid off due to the sequester.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has topped everyone by releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants awaiting deportation -- some of them "low-risk offenders" who have committed such crimes as domestic abuse, fraud, theft and drunken driving. If this is truly an inevitable consequence of sequestration, Obama has no business adopting his "my way or the highway" position on further tax increases.
Unfortunately, as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told The Washington Examiner, "He doesn't know how to stop campaigning."