Opinion: Columnists

Mark Tapscott: Sequestration scares are the ultimate Washington Wink-Winks

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Washington's professional politicians are doing their level best to use the prospect of fearsome sequestration budget cuts to scare the rest of us into endless refrains of "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!"

The sequestration scares are the ultimate example of the Washington Wink-Wink: Politicos from both parties warn of imminent disaster if the federal budget is "cut" even though they know government spending will be higher in 2013 regardless if the sequestration "cuts" are implemented.

Put another way, the sequestration scares are lies, pure and simple. Not just bunk, not just distortions or mis-statements, but lies. And every professional politician - Democrat, Republican, Socialist, Independent - in this town knows it.

Take, for example, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's claim that sequestration cuts will force his department to close down the nation's commercial airports.

Why? Because, LaHood told a congressional committee last week, "the vast majority of FAA's [Federal Aviation Administration] nearly 47,000 employees will be furloughed for approximately one day per pay period until the end of the fiscal year, and in some cases it could be as many as two days."

Understand that LaHood is the former Illinois Republican congressman President Obama put in his cabinet to give his administration a patina of bipartisanship. Both men are products of what is arguably the most corrupt state political system in America.

They wear different party labels, but LaHood and Obama are cut from the same corrupt cloth and thus epitomize the professional politicians who thrive on Washington Wink-Winks.

Here's the truth that exposes LaHood's Wink-Wink: The FAA's workforce compensation costs are about $600 million annually, yet that agency spends at least $500 million annually just on consultants.

LaHood knows this and he knows that legions of such consultants in every federal department and agency get consulting contracts after they retire from the civil service, they are politically connected with the party in power in the White House, or they contributed to a congressman who favored them with an earmark.

So when somebody says federal spending is out of control and should be reduced, professional politicians like LaHood invariably threaten to close down essential services like airports, rather than first rooting out the waste and fraud on "consultants."

But the lie of sequestration goes even beyond predictable prevarications like LaHood's. The sequestration cuts are from the government's "baseline" budget, which includes built-in spending increases every year.

So what the professional politicians bewail as a spending cut is actually nothing more than a reduction in the amount that spending will increase each year. The Washington Examiner's Byron York did a superb job earler this week explicating this fact on Greta Van Sustern's show and in a column that focused specifically on how the Pentagon plays the game.

Put another way, this whole series of threats that the Pentagon won't be able to defend the nation, passengers will have to suffer three and four hour waits in security lines at the airports (when they are open), women and children will be thrown off Food Stamps, and on and on are ... lies, pure and simple lies.

Could it be that Congress ranks below used car salesmen in public esteem is because most voters have figured out that they are being lied to on issues like sequestration?

Even if that's true, though, how to explain Obama's consistently higher standing in the popularity ratings? Here's a theory: Obama, like President Reagan before him, is protected by a form of political Teflon.

Remember the "Teflon Presidency" coined by Rep. Patricia Shroeder, then a liberal Democrat from Colorado, to explain Reagan's seemingly impregnable popularity ratings?

Obama is also a Teflon chief executive, owing to his unique status as America's first black president. Every American should take pride that Obama was elected in 2008, regardless whether they voted from him or his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain.

But should Obama be any more exempt from legitimate criticism than Reagan should have been?

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of The Washington Examiner.

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