Saul Alinsky advised the “radicals” he wanted to put into power that, “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself,” according to a list posted online by conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck.
So what does that have to do with anything?
How about considering Alinsky’s Rule No. 9 in light of today’s announcement from the Obama administration that the Pentagon will furlough 800,000 civilian employees if Congress doesn’t give the president what he wants regarding new taxes?
The Pentagon announcement, from outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, said “We are doing everything possible to limit the worst effects on DOD personnel – but I regret that our flexibility within the law is extremely limited. The president has used his legal authority to exempt military personnel funding from sequestration, but we have no legal authority to exempt civilian personnel funding from reductions.”
He was referring to the sequestration plan proposed by Obama and accepted by Congress that mandates budget cuts starting March 1 if no “compromise” is reached between the Congress and the White House regarding new taxes and spending reductions.
The DOD said civilian workers could be told to take up to 22 days off without pay – one a week – through the end of the fiscal year in September.
But Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said the reality not only is that the cutbacks are no big deal – there should be even bigger cuts.
“I think the sequester happens and it will be in some ways a yawn because the histrionics that are coming from the president saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to shut down and get rid of meat inspectors’ – I mean, is anybody not going to stand up and call his bluff of that ridiculousness?” Paul said last night on CNN.
“I mean, for goodness sakes, it was his proposal. He proposed the sequester, it was his idea. He signed it into law, now he’s going to tell us that, ‘Oh, it’s all our fault?’” Paul said. “I voted against the sequester because I didn’t think it was enough.”
He continued, “It’s a pittance. I mean, it’s a slowdown in the rate of growth. There are no real cuts happening over 10 years.”
The backdrop to the battle over taxes, which Obama wants more of, and spending cuts, which Republicans in the House want more of, is that the U.S. Senate, under the management of Democrats, hasn’t passed a budget in some four years.
That budget, critics say, should have outlined the spending plan for the nation, and so the “crisis” that has developed would have been addressed earlier.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, in a “fact-check” of Obama’s recent State of the Union, explained, “Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget in nearly four years. The president’s is late again (for the fourth time). Neither have a plan to replace the Obama sequester.”
He said the last time Senate Democrats passed a budget was April 29, 2009.
"We're committed to doing a budget on the House side – a budget that will balance over the next 10 years. It's time for the Senate and the president to show the American people how they’re willing to balance the budget over the next 10 years."
Others, too, had second thoughts about the value of Obama's warnings about furloughs, and damage from a sequester.
Writing at American Spectator, commentator Peter Ferrara, general counsel for the American Civil Rights Union, former associate Deputy Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush, and Heartland Institute director of entitlement and budget policy, explained.
"President Obama told America yesterday morning that if the sequester goes through on March 1, 'It will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research … Emergency responders like the ones who are here today – their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded. Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go. Air-traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare for their kids. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings ... .'"
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno also lobbied for avoiding the budget cuts:
However, Ferrara noted, "This language is so far from reality that it defiled the White House like it has never been defiled before."
He pointed out Obama's government is to spend $3.6 trillion this year – and the sequester cuts would be $85 billion – "just 2 percent."
"That won't eviscerate anything. It won't stop emergency responders from saving victims of disasters, won't shut down the Border Patrol, won't mean longer delays at airports without security or air traffic control, won't lay off FBI agents, won't stop criminal prosecutions, won't terminate thousands of teachers, won't leave hundreds of thousands of Americans without health care, won't 'add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls,'" he wrote.
"Even after the fearsome sequester, federal discretionary spending will still be $60 billion more than in 2008. The government's own Government Accountability Office has identified $125 billion in government waste that can be cut without hurting anybody."
He said, "Obama came back from his weekend golfing with his buddy Tiger Woods to complain yesterday that Congress hasn't done its job. But what about Obama doing his job? He was required by law to produce this year's budget proposal weeks ago. Where is it? Ya think he could have stayed home last weekend and made sure his work was done?"
Boehner said in a Wall Street Journal editorial that Republicans already have compromised on their side, sending to Obama significant tax hikes for Americans.
He said now it's time for spending cuts.
"The president got his higher taxes – $600 billion from higher earners, with no spending cuts – at the end of 2012. He also got higher taxes via Obamacare. Meanwhile, no one should be talking about raising taxes when the government is still paying people to play videogames, giving folks free cellphones, and buying $47,000 cigarette-smoking machines," he wrote.
But talk-radio icon Rush Limbaugh said Obama's goal is not what Congress may believe.
"The ultimate objective of all of this is to spend MORE. The ultimate objective of all of this is to frighten everybody everywhere about what will happen if you cut a DIME from the federal budget," Limbaugh said. "This is all about moving the ball forward under the premise that the government must grow and continue to grow if you are to have any chance in life at all. ... The secondary objective is for Obama to continue to be seen as the outsider, not governing, he's the outsider campaigning, trying to prevent this disaster, when in truth, it's his policies that are causing it."
The Hill reported that after the Pentagon announcement, Obama plans to be "on the road again next week with campaign-style events arguing that Republicans are at fault for the cuts."
The report noted that BAE Systems has told 3,600 employees they could be laid off over a loss of work from the Navy.
But even CBS reported "the darkly cloaked March 1 is not likely to yield the decade-long nightmare that has attracted handwringing by Democrats and Republicans alike."
The ultimate impact on the nation, say insiders, could rest with who Obama wants to cut out of the spending loop.
"Surely the president won't cut funds to first responders when just last year Washington handed out at estimated $115 billion in payments to individuals who weren't even eligible to receive them," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., "or at a time when 11 different government agencies are funding 90 different green energy programs. That would be a terrible and entirely unnecessary choice by a president who claims to want bipartisan reform."
And the left-leaning Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, was concerned, "Nobody likes this meat cleaver approach. … This is pretty tough medicine."
But she called for a solution, not a patch.
"We go from impasse to crisis and then we punt," she said. "That's not governing."
A commentary at the Jacksonville Daily News said it's not all the president's fault.
"The U.S. Senate – the world's oldest and supposedly most deliberative democratic legislative body -- has seen its reputation tarred through the last four years because of a political calculation made by Majority Leader Harry Reid to just ignore standard budgetary procedure," it said.
"The fundamental duty of a legislature is to pass a budget. … Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has been majority leader since 2007. He decided after the budget process of early 2009 that it would be better to not pass a federal budget, despite federal laws mandating the Senate and House of Representatives do so every year."
That left continuing payments being made through resolutions and handed Obama a large part of what he wanted.
"The refusal to pass a budget … kept spending on an annual upward slope thanks to 'baseline budgeting,' which assumes that future budgets will grow beyond current spending levels. No budget, no cuts – not even a slow down in spending," the newspaper said. "Without a federal budgetary blueprint since 2009, the nation is adrift, spending recklessly and without discipline."