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Sequester Apocalypse Now

Just so everyone is prepared, you should know that the world is going to end on March 1, when the sequester cuts will kick in (assuming, as seems increasingly likely, that there’s no deal in the interim).

A quick scan of recent headlines and you’ll see that enacting the cuts will make the U.S. a second-rate military power, keep you from seeing part of the Grand Canyon, poison your food and leave you sitting on an airport tarmac for an hour and a half. Also, someone from the federal government will come into your home, kick your dog, take you off the do-not-call list, and borrow your car without filling it back up.

Of course, if you’ve paid attention to these fights before, you know that is a classic case of Washington Monument Syndrome. Threaten to cut government budgets and it always turns out that the amount you want to reduce spending by is precisely the amount that was needed to pay police, firefighters, and teachers. We probably won’t be able to afford to immunize crippled orphans against rabies either, so you heartless Republicans are just going to have to live with the knowledge that you were responsible for the wolves rising to power in the inner cities.

As Byron York notes, the Pentagon isn’t above the scarecrow tactic:

Over many decades of defense budget battles, the Pentagon has often used a tactic known as a “gold watch.” It means to answer a budget cut proposal by selecting for elimination a program so important and valued — a gold watch — that Pentagon chiefs know political leaders will restore funding rather than go through with the cut.

So now, with sequestration approaching, the Pentagon has announced that the possibility of budget cuts has forced the Navy to delay deployment of the carrier USS Harry S. Truman to the Persian Gulf. With tensions with Iran as high as they’ve ever been, that would leave the U.S. with just one carrier, instead of the preferred two, in that deeply troubled region.

“Already, the threat of these cuts has forced the Navy to delay an aircraft carrier that was supposed to deploy to the Persian Gulf,” Obama said at a White House appearance on Tuesday, in case anyone missed the news.

Some military analysts were immediately suspicious. “A total gold watch,” said one retired general officer who asked not to be named. Military commentator and retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters called the Navy’s move “ostentatious,” comparing it to “Donald Trump claiming he can’t afford a cab.”

The situation isn’t much different stateside. As Jennifer Rubin points out today, the upshot of the sequester would be domestic discretionary spending at a level 10 percent higher than when President Obama took office.

If you can’t pull off the basic functions of government at that funding level, it’s fair to ask whether the real problem is legislative irresponsibility or executive incompetence.