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
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
As a woman whose parents had cancer, I have quite a few things to say about dying with dignity.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
David Gergen says he'll have a special eye on a few particular races in Tuesday's midterms that may tell us about our long-term future.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1452 GMT (2252 HKT)
What's behind the uptick in clown sightings? And why the fascination with them? It could be about the economy.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1301 GMT (2101 HKT)
Midterm elections don't usually have the same excitement as presidential elections. That should change, writes Sally Kohn.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1832 GMT (0232 HKT)
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2103 GMT (0503 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
ADVERTISEMENT