Ya gotta love the sequester.
One thing you learn early in this business is that the rare occasion when something good comes out of Washington it is always for the wrong reason. In a classic Seinfeld episode, a store manager politely tells Jerry that company protocol does not list “spite” as a valid basis for returning an item. In government, however, spite ranks high on the validity scale, alongside resentment, one-upmanship, egotism, greed and general nastiness.
If the sequester occurs on March 1, a consummation devoutly to be wished, it will be for one reason only. When President Obama derisively, haughtily, sneeringly, mockingly said in an election debate the sequester is “not going to happen,” a bunch of guys with the power to make it happen said to their TVs, “Oh, yeah?”
Make no mistake. There are plenty of good, decent folks in Congress who understand that government must be trimmed to save itself and to save us, and see this quest advanced by the automatic cuts due to be enacted March 1. However, that caucus does not have nearly the votes needed to take up that stand and make it stand up. It will not be the “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” of Supreme Court judiciousness that carries the day; it will be the “Oh, yeah? Oh, yeah? Oh, yeah?” spite of the guys who didn’t enjoy being dissed and dismissed in the debate.
That being said, ya gotta love the sequester. Finally there is an instrument, however imperfectly honed, to hack some fat off the morbidly obese federal budget. Not that the cuts will actually be cuts; they are only decreases in the projected increases of budgets, which are only “cuts” in the Orwellian language of Washingtonspeak. Not that the cuts will actually stick; you can be sure some later bill will slip all the money back into the system quietly. Still, the mere fact that the rapacious ripoff racket that is government spending will miss a snack or two gives hope to honest people everywhere who pull their own weight and provide real products to real people.
That is not to say the millions of people in government offices do not work hard; all you have to do is to walk into one of their on-site gyms to see them sweating and breathing heavily. Nor should we disparage their work product. My personal favorite is the Manure Management Planner (MMP) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This is part of the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) which is required of farmers with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs.)
In the immortal words of the USDA guidelines:
CNMP planners are strongly encouraged to use Manure Management Planner (MMP) because it was designed to simplify and hasten the CNMP development process. MMP was developed on a state-by-state basis to include each state’s unique data and circumstances…
Clearly, these vital functions must be spared the budget cutter’s ax. (As a public service, we include a link to the MMP.) No matter how many people we are forced to lay off in an effort to refurbish our financial house, we must make sure the fearless men of Manure Management receive their full complement of Pooper Scoopers. The image of a bunch of cows eating together at the CAFO Braunerhof in Vienna or the CAFO De Flore in Paris without a proper MMP is too scary to contemplate, although I understand Mel Brooks has bought the film rights.
Sadly, the phonies who run these departments usually cut the most vital parts first to try to win popular sympathy. Ronald Reagan raised that point 33 years ago in the Presidential debate when he cited the old politicians’ trick to cut the firefighters and the hospitals first. There is plenty of room to achieve the necessary savings without affecting vital services.
The final irony comes from the sideshow over whose idea all this was to begin with. Bob Woodward says it was Obama and Obama says it was the Republicans. Truth is Obama could have scored a big win in historical terms by standing proudly behind this idea and adding: “I expect the heads of each department to exercise maximum discretion and restraint in targeting the cuts to the least vital areas.” Who would have criticized him for that? He would only have earned accolades.
Instead of the accolades Obama spoke to the acolytes and the Kool-Aid drinkers. He wooed the wards of the state and fought Woodward. Too bad, because we could sure use some manure management in Washington, D.C.