The administration’s main talking point in the debate about the sequester has been that a “balanced” deal is being stymied by a band of ruthless conservative ideologues in the House of Representatives. This narrative, which has been endlessly echoed in the mainstream media, is based on the idea that conservative opposition to the idea of raising taxes has so distorted the Republican Party that it is unable to do the right thing, strike a deal with a president, and avert the looming draconian budget cuts. There is some truth in the assertion that the current Republican caucus is far more influenced by a desire to adhere to conservative principle than was the case with their predecessors. The problem with that argument is that it has been just as apparent that, far from advocating true balance, the Democrats are just as committed to their own ideological point of view about the budget as the GOP. Since the government has a spending problem rather than one of taxing too little, the White House’s hard line about there being no deal without more revenue has always been a reflection of their own beliefs about the need to expand government rather than shrink it. However, the administration’s attempt this week to scare the country silly about the sequester has revealed even more about the way ideology has influenced their stand.
After a week of doom and gloom predictions from Cabinet secretaries about the world coming to an end if the government is forced to live without spending more than it was shelling out when Barack Obama became president, it looks as if the public isn’t buying the Democrats’ Chicken Little routine. The impact of these cuts will be felt across the board in indiscriminate and often stupid ways, especially those affecting national defense, but it looks as if everyone understands that civilization is not about to come to a standstill because of the sequester. Yet it is highly instructive that amid all the shrieks of grief and horror about the anticipated cuts that may well be implemented by the administration to maximize the pain felt by the public, there is one piece of discretionary spending not already protected in the sequester legislation (which exempts things like military pay and entitlement spending) that will not be halted by the shortfall: the implementation of ObamaCare. As Politico reports today, there are no plans to slow or even postpone the costly expansion of government power no matter how much the administration tries to play the “Washington Monument” game, in which cuts are made so as to emphasize the costs of the measure:
The Obama administration has issued ample warnings how the sequester can have dire effects on health programs. Official talk about fewer vaccines, cuts in medical research grants, less money to treat HIV, fund cancer screenings or respond to outbreaks. But they haven’t been issuing a lot of warnings about how it’s slowing down the rollout of Obamacare.
Because sequester or no sequester, the administration is trying to keep work on the core elements full steam ahead. The Department of Health and Human Services wouldn’t respond to questions about the automatic budget cuts and health law implementation. But both advocates and critics of the law expect HHS to use all the flexibility it can muster to keep it moving — although it could get harder if the sequestration is prolonged.
The point to be gleaned from this is not just that the administration thinks ObamaCare is so sacred that its funding must be protected even as it claims vital services must be sacrificed because of the sequester (which the White House thought up in the first place). It is that its commitment to its big government agenda is the guiding principle that animates everything it does. That is the sort of thing that leads Republicans to believe that any compromise on their part that provides more revenue to government will go toward furthering the president’s laundry list of new spending projects as well as his signature health care legislation that will deepen our budget woes rather than solve them.
The decision to prioritize the ObamaCare rollout gives the lie to the administration’s phony crisis talk this week. But it also illustrates just how deep the ideological commitment to spending and taxing is inside the White House. There is nothing balanced about an approach to the budget crisis that places the new health care plan on a pedestal that vital services such as air traffic control, border security and education (all of which we have been told will be drastically affected by the sequester) do not merit in the view of the administration.
Having gotten its way on raising taxes in January in the fiscal cliff negotiations, a balanced approach might have impelled the administration to work with Republicans and put talk of more tax increases on the shelf. Instead, imbued with the fervor of true believers, the president and his minions have steered the country into the ditch in the name of their faith in expanding government. They may have fooled their cheerleaders in the press into buying their party line about their opponents being extremists, but everything they have done in the past months has only reinforced the impression that they aren’t serious about cutting spending or balancing the budget.