Late last month, math-challenged Ed Schultz took a cue from the Chicken Little hysterics streaming from the White House to claim that sequestration will slash federal spending by "damn near a third."
Much the same capacity for delusion takes hold in Schultz's radio show guests, as shown yesterday with an equally unlikely claim from Democrat congressman Jim McDermott. (audio clip after page break)
Despite the the sky remaining fixed overhead following the sequester taking effect March 1, advocates for ever-expanding government spending -- unless it's for defense -- continue gnashing their teeth over the alleged catastrophe that is the sequester.
Here's what McDermott told Schultz yesterday (audio) --
MCDERMOTT: We will get something done here because the Republicans have got a real dilemma. They have touched the hot stove of closing down the government and they don't want to do that. So they gotta figure some way to let this thing move forward and I think they will find a way.
SCHULTZ: They'll serve up revenue?
MCDERMOTT: Well, Ed, oh God, they won't call it that. (laughs) They'll call it anything, they'll call it, they'll call it Christmas cake or something. But they're going to have to come up with some revenue. I mean, you can't do this simply by cutting. You cannot cut to where they want to go. So they're going to have to do some revenue.
SCHULTZ: Uh, that would be loopholes in the tax code?
MCDERMOTT: Yup, yup. And they're all over the place. I mean, the great big ones, in the oil companies and all these places. And, and, I mean, at one point Ryan put 'em on the table, said, well here's $800 billion in tax loopholes we can close. Then he jerked it back because they realized that if they gave it too soon, they wouldn't get to this goal. They have a goal besides getting rid of the safety net, they also want to reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. And that, that is just going to cut the living daylights out of everything that we consider the government. Now I think what the people are not expecting is, if this sequester keeps going and they start closing all the small airports in this country, which is what the FAA is planning, and they start closing all these aspects where people count on government, they're, people are going to be stunned 'cause there's a disconnect in their mind between government and no taxes. I mean, they just don't understand, if you don't pay taxes, there's some services you don't get.
True, there are airport closings on the horizon as a result of the sequester -- but nowhere near what McDermott is claiming. The FAA announced on March 7 that 173 air traffic control towers will shut down by April 7, writes Daily Caller reporter Caroline May. "Under sequestration," May writes, "the FAA is expected to cut $600 million -- or just 4 percent of the agency's nearly $16 billion budget for fiscal 2012."
Assuming that 173 air traffic control towers aligns with a roughly equal number of airports, what percentage of airports does that represent for the nation? According to the CIA World Factbook, the US was home to 15,079 airports in 2010, the most in the world. Shutting down 173 comes to 1.1 percent. This helps explain why McDermott was vague on actual numbers when hyperbole better suited his purpose.
McDermott says Republicans will have no choice but acquiesce to higher "revenue" but they won't describe it that way. Instead, he chortles, "they'll call it Christmas cake or something." McDermott says this, as do other Democrats, while using the bland euphemism "revenue" to avoid saying what that actually means -- higher taxes.
Which brings to mind P.J. O'Rourke's classic definition of the difference between Republicans and Democrats, from his aptly-titled 1991 book, "Parliament of Whores" --
I have only one firm belief about the American political system and that is this: God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat.
God is an elderly or, at any rate, middle-aged male, a stern fellow, patriarchal rather than paternal and a great believer in rules and regulations. He holds men strictly accountable for their actions. He has little apparent concern for the material well-being of the disadvantaged. He is politically connected, socially powerful and holds the mortgage on literally everything in the world. God is difficult. God is unsentimental. It is very hard to get into God's heavenly country club.
Santa Claus is another matter. He's cute. He's non-threatening. He's always cheerful. And he loves animal. He may know who's been naughty and who's been nice, but he never does anything about it. He gives everyone everything they want without thought of a quid pro quo. He works hard for charities, and he's famously generous to the poor. Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: There is no such thing as Santa Claus.
That being said, I take no comfort knowing that good people are losing their jobs or substantial portions of their livelihoods as a result of the sequester. But this does not have to be a given. One way to reduce the $600 million impact on the FAA, and by more than 40 percent? Redirect the $250 million being sent to a regime in Egypt run by the Muslim Brotherhood. That alone would make for safer skies -- even if the sequester was never mandated.