An Existential Threat to Liberal Ideology
All of the hysteria and panic from left-leaning politicians and media commentators over the last month or so regarding the dire consequences of sequestration have left me somewhat baffled. How could anyone possibly believe that growing the federal government's budget by something less than the ridiculous automatic scheduled annual growth rate of 7% could be catastrophic? In effect, the sequester would return the federal government to 2012 expenditure levels in 2013. Has inflation been so severe in the last twelve months that such a decrease in the increase would bring upon us wildfires, tainted meat, airport lines, and loss of all medical care?
No, obviously not. But Democrats have governed for years under a paradigm that there is no prioritization in federal budgeting. According to the democratically controlled Senate, every single dollar the federal government spends is absolutely critical -- even more, equally critical. A dollar spent on defense matches exactly the importance of a dollar spent on outreach programs, a reality TV show in India, studies on studies, foreign aid, rural broadband deployment, free cell phones, and all other federal dollars. This is evidenced by the government's unwillingness to produce a budget during any of the past four years.
A budget is prioritization. By creating a budget, a financial decision maker is forced to decide which line items must be paid for and which can or must be put off. A budget's author(s) must choose between things like food and entertainment, bills and vacations, housing and gifts. Ignoring federal law by not producing a budget means that our elected leaders get away with the gross lie that all expenditures are of equal necessity.
This language has very intentionally been introduced to other aspects of the financial debate in recent years. During discussions concerning the debt ceiling, we have regularly been treated to admonishments by liberals that the nation must "pay its bills," as though every elective budget item were a critical "bill" that must be honored. This will continue every time the debt ceiling comes up -- watch for it.
One might say that the sequester plan originated as a declaration that all federal expenses are created equal. In other words, since government could not agree on any acceptable cuts that would bring our expenditures in line with revenues, Congress and President Obama created a backstop law that would implement across-the-board cuts equally. The cuts amount to $85 billion this year, or about 2.1% of the estimated 4.061 trillion dollar total expenditures in 2013. Such a "cut" would still result in federal outlays for 2013 totaling 3.976 trillion dollars, about 180 billion dollars more than was spent in FY2012.
This is a disaster, according to liberal politicians and commentators.
Or is it? Perhaps the real danger is that sequestration will occur, and people's lives will go on as normal. The liberal myth that all government spending is critically important will fade away. People might actually realize that we can survive and thrive with smaller government. In actuality, liberals are very concerned that their fundamental philosophy -- that prosperity is driven by government spending and government growth -- might be discredited. How can government justify confiscating and wasting trillions of dollars more than we take in every year if nobody believes these expenditures matter? Maybe those dollars will finally be recognized as pork, waste, union handouts, and paybacks to donors and friends. Maybe we really could cut the size of government by even more than the woefully inadequate 2% and we'd all be just fine.
This is the existential threat to liberalism. It's about the lie being exposed, not the paltry decrease in the increase. Hence the sound and the fury.