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Bully Government

by dcarr on March 28th, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt called being President “the bully pulpit.” He meant “bully” in the sense of “splendid” or “wonderful” as he often referred to a happy event with a joyous cry of “bully!”Now we see a President who intends on using the bully pulpit for actual bullying.
President Obama and his Democratic allies view the sequester with disdain and fear. Cutting government spending or the size of government, in any fashion, stands anathema to their nature. Plainly, they view the current size of government to be of the absolute minimum size to keep intact western civilization as we know it. One penny less; let alone one program less, and we careen into the abyss. (One wonders if the emperor may have no clothes on this point, but I digress.) Perhaps they see it correctly. One problem. The government fails to collect enough revenue to pay for said perfect government, and not by a small measure. $4 trillion in spending; $3 trillion in revenues—roughly speaking. The wealthy? They just absorbed a significant tax increase in January of this year, but not nearly enough to close the spending gap. In fact, if you completely confiscated the wealth of the top 1% of U.S. citizens that would only cover the deficit for one year. What would you do in the next year?

Enter spending cuts, or the sequester, which went into effect in March. Approximately $80 billon in annual across the board spending cuts. Not nearly enough to close the gap, but a start. It constitutes a baby step down the path of responsible government before the bond market gags on U.S. treasuries and the whole sucker goes down, to paraphrase the often mocked, but often right, George W. Bush.

But wait, did someone just kick that baby-stepping sequester into the gutter?
Repeated reports indicate the Executive Branch intends to make the cuts hurt. What does this mean? Popular programs cut first, not last. Vital functions, not duplicative ones, whacked. Employee furloughs instead of slight pay cuts for federal employee who faired very well during the Great Recession, seeing no layoffs or pay cuts while the private sector suffered through both over the last five years.

How dare the people, through their legislative branch, tell government to cut back and live within its means? (Even though this constitutes an explicit function of the Congress, as set forth in the Constitution.) Make no mistake, the Executive Branch possesses the means, and apparently, the will, to make it hurt. I just personally witnessed apparent cut-backs in TSA staffing at the airport, resulting in unusually long lines. One hears reports of Head Start programs cut back, illegal immigrants released from detention, and certainly a parade of horribles to follow.

Moreover, it may work.

Recently, our local school superintendent requested a referendum to raise school funding. It failed to pass. He vowed to make it hurt. He did. He cut the German program altogether. He cut back music programs. Rather than finding ways to do more with less, and minimizing pain to the citizenry, he maximized pain.

A second referendum came forth, and this time, passed.
You see, apparently the day has passed where the people tell government, local or federal, how much they want to spend, or how big they want government to be. Instead, now government tells us how big they intend to be, and they will be that big. We either pay for it, or suffer. We get to choose our punishment: exploding deficits or retaliatory service cut backs, but we suffer nonetheless, for daring to tell government to live within its/our means.

Government by the people, of the people, for the people stands morphed into government for the government, as dictated by the government, to the potential detriment of the people, if the people dare to question government’s size, direction, or motives. One can still say we get the government we deserve, and this is what we voted for, albeit 51% to 49%. However, this feels like being bullied…and not bully at all.

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