Skip to main content

On cuts, Washington throws a tantrum

By Alex Castellanos, CNN Contributor
updated 5:26 AM EST, Mon February 25, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Alex Castellanos: Threat of mandatory cuts shows D.C. elites toying with nation's fate
  • He says inability to make hard spending choices is equivalent of holding breath till turning blue
  • He says Americans have lived with less since recession; why can't government?
  • Castellanos: Both parties playing contemptible game; Obama must make government tighten belt

Editor's note: Alex Castellanos, a CNN contributor, is a Republican consultant and the co-founder of Purple Strategies. Follow him on Twitter: @alexcast

(CNN) -- As the clock ticks toward those mandatory budget cuts that could arrive on March 1, those listening to the news would think an asteroid is about to hit planet Earth.

Our Defense Department tells us our Defense Department can't be cut or the world will end.

Our first responders tell us our first responders can't be cut or the world will end.

Our National Park Service tells us our National Park Service can't be cut or the world will end.

Alex Castellanos
Alex Castellanos

Our national parks were created to preserve nature, undisturbed by man. Now we are told that if we leave nature untouched, it will perish. When did the essential ingredients of biological existence become oxygen, water, sunlight and federal funding? Apparently, the Grand Canyon will cease to be a hole in the ground if the National Park Service loses a few cents of every dollar it has been given.

But let's set aside the indispensability of man to nature, for a moment, to concentrate on a conflict of interest.

Why would we expect any public servant to tell us his or her work is suddenly less vital to our nation? Do we believe any government agency would confess that it could do with a single tax dollar less?

Opinion: Forced cuts a disaster for military

Even if the federal government tapped into Solomon's Mines, awash with riches, would they say, "We were preparing to set our extra cash on fire but thank heavens you are here and have some use for it! Please cut our budget!" Even then, we know, Washington could not imagine itself less important or in need.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



So why are we allowing ourselves to be blackmailed with our own money by those we've employed to serve us?

Washington is throwing a tantrum. It is threatening to hold its breath until it turns blue unless it gets what it wants. Washington is a study in juvenile petulance. If at any time it has demonstrated a childish need for discipline, this moment is it.

The American people have learned to do with less in the past six years. Less after they pay higher taxes. Less after they pay more for gas. Less after they lose their jobs or portion out smaller paychecks. Less after their homes shrink into debt. Less after their businesses fail.

But there is another economy, distant from theirs. And it is growing. Washington's economy has learned to do with more.

Under Republican and Democratic presidents, the federal budget has grown by $1.7 trillion dollars over the past decade. Washington now has the third largest concentration of high-income households of any metropolitan area in America. A little over a year ago, Washington surpassed Silicon Valley for the highest average income in the country.

Opinion: Plenty to cut at Pentagon

Today, it is Washington's elites, not just Wall Street's, who make news flying to golf vacations in Florida and skiing trips in Aspen, enjoying haute cuisine at Washington's tony Minibar. During his tenure at Citigroup from 2006 to 2008, our new treasury secretary, Jack Lew, took a nearly $1 million bonus a day before the company took a taxpayer-funded bailout. He also invested $56,000 in a fund, headquartered in a Cayman Islands building, that Obama once called "the largest tax scam in the world."

Horace Greeley might urge, "Go east, young man." There is gold in Washington's hills.

LaHood talks budget cut repercussions
Head Start braces for budget cuts
McCain: Obama must lead on budget deal

What might a real leader, a president, do at this point?

He might say, "Under these difficult circumstances, let's ask government to tighten its belt 2%, since Americans have had to tighten theirs. Let's remember whom we are here to serve. Let's lead by example, do our jobs more efficiently and make these cuts as painless as possible."

We hear nothing like that from this White House.

Instead, Barack Obama directs his lieutenants to echo his threats against the people who pay their salaries. Unless Congress expands the instruments of redistribution he finds necessary to ensure his dream of equality, he promises that the sequester deal it agreed to in 2011 will rain down in "harsh, arbitrary cuts" that would "devastate priorities like education, energy, and medical research ... slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs."

These words come from our own president. As Bob Woodward reports, Obama originated this particular bit of Washington lunacy now known as the sequester but the blame for this mess can be laid at Republican and Democratic feet.

Both parties agreed to this contemptible game where Washington holds a gun to America's head as they dare each other to pull the trigger. And we, the American people, permit it. What won't we tolerate if we sheepishly allow this?

We should mark this moment, when tantrums became threats and our leaders surrendered the pretense they were serving us.

Then let's sing, "Washington, the Beautiful" because whatever America once was, Washington is.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Alex Castellanos

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT