'Devastating' sequester cuts: True or False?

I suppose it depends on your point of view. If you lose one fifth of your pay because you're a federal employee and are furloughed one day a week, it's pretty bad.

But is Obama right about the effects of the sequester? He says that it would be "a huge blow to middle-class families and our economy as a whole." Oh, really?

Bill Wilson writing in Forbes:

According to Obama, the sequester would represent "a huge blow to middle-class families and our economy as a whole." Obama's White House has also referred to the sequester as "devastating," saying its cuts would "imperil our economy, our national security (and) vital programs that middle class families depend on."

Sounds frightening - but is it true? Of course not. According to The Wall Street Journal "federal domestic discretionary spending soared by 84 percent with some agencies doubling and tripling their budgets" during Barack Obama's first two years in office. In fact the sequester would scale back just one of every six dollars in discretionary spending increases since 2008 - hardly a "huge blow." Also, discretionary spending in 2008 was already tremendously inflated - having increased by more than 60 percent over the previous eight years.

In other words this isn't even really a cut - "devastating" or otherwise - it's a modest growth rate reduction following years of unnecessary, embarrassing and unsustainable excesses.

Where the sequester debate deviates from the norm is in its dramatis personae. Unlike prior spending debates, the sequester features Republicans attempting to shift the onus for cutting government onto Obama. U.S. Speaker John Boehner has repeatedly referenced "the president's sequester" while decrying its "harmful cuts."

What hypocrisy. Obama and Boehner both supported the sequester as an excuse for yet another unsustainable run-up of our nation's credit limit - which exhausted its latest $2.1 trillion increase last December (after less than seventeen months).

"The debt ceiling deal in 2011 was agreed to by Republicans and Democrats, and regardless of who came up with the sequester, they all voted for it," U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) said recently. "So, you can't vote for something and, with a straight face, go blame the other guy for its existence in law."

Republicans sense that if they cave on taxes this time, it has the real potential to tear the party asunder. Obama is fully cognizant of this and is ratcheting up the pressure by utilizing his sky is falling rhetoric. If the economy goes south, and if the cuts bite individual citizens at airports, at the grocery stores, etc, the GOP's stand on principle will likely cost them in 2014.

But there is danger for Obama too. What if the cuts go into effect and the impact is mild or even barely noticeable? This is what Wilson is saying and if it comes to pass, Obama will experience the one thing that politicians very rarely recover from: ridicule.

Obama the butt of late night comic's jokes? It could happen.