But there are lessons to be learned from this debacle.
First, Democrats must acknowledge that the fairly insignificant cuts — about 2 percent for this fiscal year — are far less than the cuts American families and businesses have made in recent years, as Obama’s “Recovery Summer” has failed to materialize year after year. Everyone has had to tighten their belts. It’s not asking the government to do the same — especially when it agreed to, on a bipartisan basis, only 18 months ago.
And Democrats must stop overplaying their hand. Their efforts to stave off sequestration have been purely political, with no real action from the Senate or the White House.
Those calamitous results will only occur if the administration insists on making things as bad as possible for the American public, for purely political reasons. Cuts can be made with common sense in mind — instead of, for example, releasing hundreds of criminal illegal immigrants days before sequestration even took effect.
For years, the GOP attempted a “starve the beast” policy to limit government spending. The theory was that if Congress funded less government, there would be less government.
Ronald Reagan said in 1980, as he campaigned for president, “if you’ve got a kid that’s extravagant, you can lecture him all you want to about his extravagance. Or you can cut his allowance and achieve the same end much quicker.”
The problem is that the beast never actually dies. Instead, you have departments and programs with career officials just waiting for the next administration to come along and enable them to gorge again.
“Starving the beast,” for example, results in the same number of programs, with fewer people to conduct them, monitor them, and ensure they’re effective. It results in the same number of regulations, with fewer inspectors to enforce them. Government is then less accountable, less efficient and less responsive.
What conservatives want is less government — and that’s something only achieved by repealing regulations, shutting down programs and eliminating departments.
That’s where it gets tricky. Everyone says they want less government, but there are always very vocal advocates for any particular program. That means Congress will have to make real choices and be ready to face a storm of opposition.
Of course, Republicans are in no position to do so now; the Democrats hold the White House and the Senate. The GOP remains in the wilderness, an ineffective opposition party that has lost the confidence of the people.
Repairing its reputation should begin with keeping its word on the sequestration cuts.