Attributed to the late Earl Weaver
Former manager, Baltimore Orioles
So the nation has addressed its mounting public debt problem by failing to take explicit action, and therefore allowing an automatic “sequester” of spending to take effect. The sequester is a mindless across-the-board cut, reducing defense and non-defense spending alike, and the highest and the lowest public priorities equally. And for all of the pain it will cause, it is far insufficient to solve the debt problem. It is the proverbial basketball player who made up for his lack of size with his lack of speed.
The House and the Senate have passed budget resolutions that are trillions apart, literally and figuratively, and they cannot agree to go to conference to reconcile the two. The House Speaker says that he has been jilted one too many times, and will not meet with the President privately. The President has taken groups of Republican Senators out for very nice dinners, and even has picked up the check. (Personal deficit spending?) But those Republican Senators say that they cannot cut a deal without their Minority Leader, who so far apparently prefers to eat at home. And there are no signs of any communication between the dining Republican Senators and their House Majority counterparts.
So in those immortal words reportedly shouted at the tips of innumerable umpires’ noses by the late Earl Weaver, “Are you gonna get any better, or is this it?” Apparently, Weaver never reached a very positive opinion of the quality of major league umpiring, and there is precious little evidence to inspire much greater confidence in the workings of Washington these days.
On first principles, no one had great fondness for the sequester. Republicans by and large could not abide the defense cuts, and Democrats felt the same about the domestic cuts. But Democrats, including the President, concluded that the defense cuts could be used as bargaining leverage, and some even embraced the prospect of the sequester as the only way they could squeeze the Pentagon budget.
But the tables appear to have turned. Enough Republicans have embraced the defense cuts to move the balance in their caucus; and apparently most if not all Republicans enjoy watching the Democrats squirm at the mechanistic reductions on the domestic side (including small cuts in entitlement programs, which are seldom mentioned but have real consequences). It is easy to blame the White House’s management for any pain and suffering that eventuates, and if an intolerable problem emerges (like air traffic control or food inspection), the Republican House can easily pass a rifle-shot bill to fix it. If the Democratic Senate were to refuse to move such a bill along, it would have to accept direct responsibility for the problem. So while some people have expected the sequester to arouse broad-based opposition, that does not appear imminent, or perhaps even likely.