“The sequester debate illustrates a central contradiction of progressive economic thought. On the one hand, progressives believe the U.S. economy is so fragile that even the mere threat of cuts in government spending would be disastrous. On the other hand, they believe this same economy is so resilient that billions upon billions of dollars in regulatory costs have no effect on growth at all.”
by John Berlau
Are you watching the Sequester Show? In today’s Wall Street Journal, my friend Kim Strassel says the sequester drama has “jumped the shark,” a phrase used when a TV show loses popularity. As I have pointed out in OpenMarket before, the phrase originated with “Happy Days,” in which many a fan pinpointed the exact moment of the show’s descent to an episode in which Fonzie literally jumped over a shark with water skis.
Yet, I’m not sure “jump the shark” is the best phrase to describe what’s happened with the Sequester Show. It may not have jumped the shark, but changed formats and become even more popular — albeit to the detriment of the Obama administration.
Specifically, the show changed its format from melodrama to comedy. Try as it might, the Obama administration just couldn’t convince the public of all the disasters that must occur because of a 2-percent cut in government spending. Many families and businesses have had to cut much more in these rough last few years. Then free-market activists, followed by GOP politicians, began to point out all the waste that could be cut using Twitter hashtags such as #CutWaste and #SequesterThis (the latter of which was popularized by Competitive Enterprise Institute Fellow Bill Frezza).
Noting the disastrous stunt of suspending public White House tours, Strassel’s piece contained some excellent examples of waste and extravagance at the executive mansion. For instance, the White House pays almost $300,000 a year for three White House calligraphers.
There is also plenty of spending the government does that is not just wasteful, but destructive. A few days ago, I was quoted in an excellent Bloomberg piece by Lorraine Woellert and Todd Shields on the suspension of the “green jobs” survey by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. I offered the view the survey should be” sequestered” permanently.
“It is inherently subjective because there is no standard definition of what a green job is,” Berlau said. “When an employment survey starts from the premise that some jobs are better than others, it is propaganda.”
I also told the reporters (and I don’t fault them for not quoting this, because stories have limited space) the example of how jobs in low-sulfur coal wouldn’t be considered “green,” but one in the wind industry would, even though windmills have been found to chop up “tens of thousands of birds,” according to USA Today.
And how about sequestering some excessive regulations that threaten our economy. In a National Review symposium on the sequester, I note how the sequester debate
illustrates a central contradiction of progressive economic thought. On the one hand, progressives believe the U.S. economy is so fragile that even the mere threat of cuts in government spending would be disastrous. On the other hand, they believe this same economy is so resilient that billions upon billions of dollars in regulatory costs have no effect on growth at all.
This article first ran at CEI’s Open Market on March 8, 2013.