This has not been a good week for President Obama’s campaign to use $44 billion in automatic spending cuts as leverage to force Republicans to vote for higher taxes. First, legendary journalist Bob Woodward dismantled the White House’s account of how the sequester was created. Now, Woodward is telling Politico that the White House responded by threatening him if he went forward with his claim.
Then Education Secretary Arne Duncan was caught in a baldfaced lie about the sequester causing teacher layoffs. On Face the Nation last Sunday Duncan told CBS, “As many as 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs. … There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can’t come back this fall.” But when pressed to identify which teachers are “literally” getting pink slips right now, Duncan could only name one country in West Virginia. And when The Washington Post followed up with the director of federal programs for that county, she said that while five to six teachers were being laid off, those layoffs had nothing to do with the sequester. In fact, they were caused by a previous White House decision to cut funding for ineffective Head Start programs.
Now newspapers across the country are all running stories directly refuting Obama’s “sky is falling” Chicken Little act. The Associated Press reported yesterday that, “President Barack Obama and his officials are doing their best to drum up public concern over the shock wave of spending cuts that could strike the government in just days. So it’s a good time to be alert for sky-is-falling hype.” And Reuters reports today, “The actual amount of savings is much less – $43 billion in the current fiscal year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That’s because federal agencies don’t spend all of the money they are allocated in any given fiscal year. A $1 billion aircraft carrier, for example, may take years to build.”
When the sun rises on Saturday morning and House Republicans will still have not agreed to new tax hikes, Obama will be forced to step up his sequestration pressure campaign. He will do everything possible to maximize the pain caused by the sequester and dramatize the efforts. Thanks to Duncan, Republicans now have a strong response: the White House is lying about the sequester and Obama’s ability to minimize sequestration’s effects.
The sooner Obama realizes he has lost, signs a continuing resolution making the sequester permanent, and moves on to the rest of his agenda, the better it will be for him.