Some Facts about Sequestration that the New York Times Fails to Understand

Sequestration, by the Times’s own admission, “will not stop to contemplate whether [the programs it cuts] are the right programs to cut; it is entirely indiscriminate, slashing programs whether they are bloated or essential.” And yet, the Times pretends throughout its unsigned editorial—I wouldn’t want to put my name on it either—that sequestration represents the only pathway by which center-right policymakers want to shrink government, or at least reduce the growth of government.

This, of course, is a silly argument, but one that has great sway in the epistemically closed world in which the Times finds its most ardent fans. Few, if any small-government libertarians and conservatives would propose to shrink government in the manner that sequestration calls for; they would by contrast be more than willing to reduce government “substantially, but thoughtfully, considering the nation’s needs” via regular order as contemplated by the traditional appropriations process. The problem, however, is that it has been nearly four years(!) since Senate Democrats passed a budget—we have been operating on continuing resolutions since then—and there is no Fiscal Grand Bargain in the offing, especially not with a White House that signaled its intention very early after the November elections to make war with Republicans during the president’s second term, and which doubled and tripled down on those intentions in the inaugural and State of the Union addresses. Because the parties don’t appear to be in a mood to deal, and because any further delay in getting our fiscal house in order might further jeopardize our credit rating, we have the sequester to force matters along. Either the parties get their respective acts together, or we get the meat cleaver.

Am I happy about the sequester? Of course not; it’s a dumb way to grapple with fiscal issues. But instruments like the sequester get designed and implemented because national leaders too often become shirkers of responsibility. If elected officials stepped up and did their jobs, we might have nice(r) things.

Would it be too much to ask that the Times remember all of this? Would it be too much to ask that it refrain from implying—and theTimes does more than imply—that sequestration has come about because too many representatives and senators have worn out their copies of The Conscience of a Conservative and their DVDs of Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural? Would it be too much to ask that the Times recall in its editorials that Democrats joined Republicans in implementing the sequestration mechanism to force themselves and each other to act? And while I am asking questions, would it be too much to ask that the Times remember which president signed the sequester into law? Here’s a hint; he’s the current Democrat-in-Chief.

Some might wonder why I bother asking these questions. After all, the irresponsibility of elected officials is not the only reason why we can’t have nice(r) things. Journalists aren’t exactly setting records these days either.

(Nota bene: Not being the New York Times, I have no problems with my name being associated with this blog post.)

  1. Israel P.
    cdor:  I was under the sorry misunderstanding that the US House controls spending.

    Taxation.

  2. Nick Stuart

    Have to admit I haven’t been paying really close attention to the actual mechanics of how sequestration will work. I was assuming that the Pentagon would get the directive to cut it’s budget by X billion dollars, and that the rest of the executive branch would get the directive to cut “discretionary” spending by X billion dollars.

    Happens in private industry all the time (not in the billions, but a directive to a department head to cut by X amount, and he or she has to figure out how to do it)?

    Of course, the Pentagon cuts will be in operations leaving bloated home district defense constituencies untouched. And the other cuts will be made in the most immediately painful high profile areas possible (the Washington Monument ploy where high profile attractions are closed so CNN_MSNBC_CBS_ABS_NBS_NYTIMES_WAPO can feature teary-eyed toddlers weeping over their ruined vacations while leaving the legions of bumf-shuffling drones in the Department of Agriculture untouched).

  3. Indaba

    Remember Romney asking Obama about sequestration during the debates? Obama scoffed and said it would not happen. Did the NYT even give an analysis of what this meant, why it was suggested by Romney? I visited NY and walked past their offuces which seemed shabby. They are like an aging actor trying to play their usual role. The problem is the internet allows other places like Ricochet to explain the meaning of sequestration, to point out there is a missing budget and to show up the NYT. I will pay fir Ricochet because they have taught me more. The NYT is dull and I will nit pay.

  4. Aaron Miller

    We couldn’t even cut Big Bird from the budget. So, yeah, sequestration must scare the pants off them.

  5. Patrick in Albuquerque

    That an organ even as blinkered as the NYTimes can believe the stats put out by the administration beggars the imagination. “— roughly two-thirds of the Air Force’s active-duty combat units — by July will no longer be capable of carrying out their missions.” Two thirds? That’s simply not credible given the miniscule sequestration cuts.

  6. BrentB67

    I share your frustration, but at this point I think anything that hints at a cut is a good thing.

  7. Dave Carter
    C

    “Would it be too much to ask that the Times remember all of this?”  

    In a word, yes.  I’m afraid the Times has all the political judgement and sense of economic history of a lemming.  

  8. Babci

    Do people still read the NYT?  Seriously, it’s like calling an old boyfriend to see if he’s still as (fill in the blank) as you remember.  Yes, he is…stop being surprised…stop calling!

  9. BrentB67
    Dave Carter:”Would it be too much to ask that the Times remember all of this?”  

    In a word, yes.  I’m afraid the Timeshas all the political judgement and sense of economic history of a lemming.   · 51 minutes ago

    Good point. Being frustrated with the Times is like being mad about the winter coming every year. No matter how much it sucks it is just going to keep happening.

  10. cdor

    It seems that whenever Obama and his Executive branch want to spend money, they have it to spend. We are now hearing that Homeland Security (it should be put in scare quotes) has purchased 1.6 billion bullets along with other government agencies. These are not for military use. Who authorized this expenditure? I was under the sorry misunderstanding that the US House controls spending. Well guess what will happen under sequestration. The lawless Obama administration will sequester military funds only.All other spending will continue. Just wait and see.

  11. genferei
    Babci: Do people still read the NYT?  Seriously, it’s like calling an old boyfriend to see if he’s still as (fill in the blank) as you remember.  Yes, he is…stop being surprised…stop calling! · 1 hour ago

    Beautifully put. Peter Robinson – tape this to your monitor!

  12. genferei
    Pejman Yousefzadeh: TheTimes remains one of the most popular newspapers and one of the most powerful shapers of public opinion out there. Rather than ignoring it, we ought to call it to account when it makes errors.

    That will require a lot of work, of course. But ignoring theTimesmeans letting arguments that will get a lot of attention go unrefuted.

    The NYT has a circulation of 1.5 million. 132 million votes were cast in the American Idol finale last year.

    The NYT ethos certainly pervades the remaining newsrooms on the American scene, and these newsrooms probably still have influence on public opinion.

    However, to criticise the NYT for making errors is to perpetuate the myth – the dangerous myth – that the newsmedia is about facts and truth. It is from this myth that the ability of the media to shape public opinion arises.

    Work is required, yes. But the work that needs to be done is to delegitimise the media, not ‘reform’ it. How many falsehoods about plastic turkeys or the Great Depression or almost anything to do with Sarah Palin persist after years of debunking?

    Treat the Times with the contemptuous indifference it deserves.

  13. Pejman Yousefzadeh
    C

    The Times remains one of the most popular newspapers and one of the most powerful shapers of public opinion out there. Rather than ignoring it, we ought to call it to account when it makes errors.

    That will require a lot of work, of course. But ignoring the Times means letting arguments that will get a lot of attention go unrefuted.

    genferei

    Babci: Do people still read the NYT?  Seriously, it’s like calling an old boyfriend to see if he’s still as (fill in the blank) as you remember.  Yes, he is…stop being surprised…stop calling! · 1 hour ago

    Beautifully put. Peter Robinson – tape this to your monitor! · 11 hours ago

  14. Pejman Yousefzadeh
    C

    The Times’s circulation belies the degree to which its stories are picked up by other print, television, radio and Internet outlets. And reforming the press does not exclude delegitimizing certain dishonest media actors.

    genferei

    The NYT has a circulation of 1.5 million. 132 million votes were cast in the American Idol finale last year.

    The NYT ethos certainly pervades the remaining newsrooms on the American scene, and these newsrooms probably still have influence on public opinion.

    However, to criticise the NYT for making errors is to perpetuate the myth – the dangerous myth – that the newsmedia is about facts and truth. It is from this myth that the ability of the media to shape public opinion arises.

    Work is required, yes. But the work that needs to be done is to delegitimise the media, not ‘reform’ it. How many falsehoods about plastic turkeys or the Great Depression or almost anything to do with Sarah Palin persist after years of debunking?

    Treat the Times with the contemptuous indifference it deserves. · 10 hours ago

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