President Obama told the country that it would “add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls.” And just in case the media, Republicans, or anyone else among the American public thought he was exaggerating, he made it clear that he wasn’t.
“This is not an abstraction,” the president added. “People will lose their jobs.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took the provocative rhetoric a step further, claiming that it had “already cut 1.6 million jobs.”
“As many as 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs” because of it, said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips.”
The “it” I’m talking about, of course, is the controversial sequester that kicked in a little over a year ago.
At the time, there was no shortage of politicians fear-mongering the affects of the unorthodox budgetary measure. The American public was being told repeatedly that the $85.3 billion cut in federal spending would result in nothing short of Armageddon. Criminals would be released back on the street, children wouldn’t receive vaccinations, and senior citizens would starve to death! But it was the massive number of jobs that were sure to be lost – those of teachers, firefighters, policeman, and other public servants – that was really being pushed hard both by the administration and many in congress.
Well, as we learned earlier this week when the findings of a Government Accountability Office report was released, all of those wide-eyed predictions of massive job layoffs fell a bit short. A lot short, actually. In fact, according to the GAO, a grand total of exactly ONE job was lost, as a result of the sequestration. That’s right… One.
The revelation would be comical if it wasn’t painfully representative of the shameless tactics used so often by so many politicians to scare the hell out of the American public.
Sometimes the goal is to paint the opposition party as a bunch of extremists – people who want to steal women’s birth control pills, push senior citizens off of cliffs, and take us back to the days of segregation. Other times, it’s to convince the electorate that it just can’t live without a monstrous, ever-expanding government apparatus hovering above – one so important to everyone’s well-being that no amount of funding should be spared.
At some point, you would think the public would get tired of being played for fools. Unfortunately, far too many among the public are simply quite comfortable in the role.
In reaction to the GAO report, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma made the following statement: “It is devastating to the credibility of Washington politicians and administration officials who spent months – and millions of dollars – engaging in a coordinated multi-agency cabinet-level public relations campaign to scare the American people.”
Coburn added, “Taxpayers expect us to root our predictions in fact, not ideology and spin.”
Is that true, though? Do Americans really expect politicians to be honest with them? Is it something they insist upon? Sadly, I’ve seen little evidence of that.
I don’t think anyone truly believes that any of the politicians and officials who engaged in the hair-on-fire, doomsday rhetoric surrounding the sequestration will pay any kind of political price for what they did. The public will forget about this story by next week. And therein lies the problem.
As a country, we should care when people play off our emotions to spread ridiculous assertions and blatant untruths. We should care when people tell us that healthcare reform will let us keep our health-plans and doctors when they know what they’re telling us just isn’t true. We should care when we’re told a false story about how four Americans in Benghazi, Libya were murdered, and we should care about finding out who it was that made up that story.
We should care.
So, when we’re told repeatedly that a spending cut equal to only one-half of 1 percent of GDP will layoff hundreds of thousands of people, and instead only lays off one, we should start laying off some of the people who told us that nonsense in the first place. It seems only fair, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, until that kind of thing happens, the demagoguery and dishonesty will live on. And sadly, we still won’t care.