For weeks, President Barack Obama and his deputies traveled the country, sounding the alarm about sequestration. They used people as props to claim that public safety would be put at risk, meat would go uninspected and the economy would tank.
Unfortunately for President Obama, none of that has come true.
Sequestration happened, and the world continued turning on its axis. On March 8, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at a record high for the fourth straight day.
To be sure, the cuts will be felt by some, and for them this is a very real problem. The House twice passed legislation that would have replaced the cuts of sequestration with targeted reforms and reductions that maintained the overall savings. The Senate failed to advance a single alternative.
While the Obama administration claims its hands are tied, it threatened to veto a Senate Republican-backed plan that would have given it flexibility and discretion in applying the cuts.
Perhaps it feared the legislation would prevent it from applying what amounts to 3 cents on the dollar in the highest-profile manner possible.
We got the first taste of that March 5. In a move of classic Washington theater, President Obama announced that the self-guided tours of the White House would be suspended as a result of sequestration.
To put this in perspective, the House has cut its own budget by 12 percent since 2008 and will see additional cuts as a result of sequestration. Somehow, we have managed — and will continue to manage — to keep our doors open to the public. In fact, our tours are guided.
For the White House, however, the cuts of sequestration apparently were far too deep to continue offering self-guided tours. Finding 3 cents on the dollar to save — one-fourth of the amount the House has voluntarily cut its own budget — was too hard and required shutting the people out of the “People’s House.”
According to ABC News, shutting down the tours will save the government $18,000 per week. That’s $936,000 annually, or the cost of operating Air Force One for just five hours — less than half the duration from Washington, D.C. to Hawaii where the president vacations each Christmas.
According to GOP.gov, the savings from shuttering the tours amounts to less than 2 percent of the $51.6 million the Obama administration spent on taxpayer-funded promotion of Obamacare, according to GOP.gov. That total includes a million-dollar contract to a fancy Washington, D.C. public-relations firm that could have more than paid for a full year of White House tours on its own. The savings is less than one-tenth the $1.7 billion the federal government spent on empty and under-utilized federal property in 2010 alone.
These are all, apparently, vital programs that must be spared from cuts.
If past is precedent, we are in store for more high-profile closings to be blamed on sequestration. Government officials will claim their hands were tied. Let’s hope the American people can see through the theatrics.
Kingston, R-Savannah, serves the 1st Congressional District of Georgia, which includes Bryan County.