Skip to main content

On cuts, Washington throws a tantrum

By Alex Castellanos, CNN Contributor
February 25, 2013 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
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
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2028 GMT (0428 HKT)
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2049 GMT (0449 HKT)
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1459 GMT (2259 HKT)
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1859 GMT (0259 HKT)
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT