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 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1938 GMT (0338 HKT)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1128 GMT (1928 HKT)
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1241 GMT (2041 HKT)
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2211 GMT (0611 HKT)
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2218 GMT (0618 HKT)
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1721 GMT (0121 HKT)
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1730 GMT (0130 HKT)
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT