“To be very honest, most of everything I hear is that people are glad we are actually finally cutting spending,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who added that there are some military bases, defense contractors and an air tower impacted, which he’s hearing about.But while Isakson might not be hearing much blowback, that doesn't mean the sequester is popular. Poll after poll shows that Americans are not happy with the sequester. To understand why, you need look no further than the video at the top of this post, which includes stories like these:
“In general, everybody else in Georgia has been having to cut their budgets for years because of the recession. I think they are glad we are finally doing something about spending. So it’s caused some consternation but it’s overall not a lot of phone calls.”
Mary and Bob Haas work at an air traffic control tower in Albany, Ga. But now that the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it will be closing that tower -- along with many others around the country -- due to sequestration, the couple will be laid off.And as HuffPost reports in the same article, these constituents haven't all been silent. In fact, a woman who runs a Head Start program program in Columbus, Georgia, met with Isakson's staff to tell them the sequester will force between 45 and 60 children out of her program. That's about five percent of the children she serves, and neither she nor the kids and their parents are "glad" about the cuts.
"Well, on a personal basis, financially it's devastating for us to lose our jobs simultaneously," Mary Haas told FOX 31.
Nonetheless, despite the sequester's unpopularity, it's faded as a major news story. Follow below the fold to discuss why that is.
One obvious reason that the sequester is dominating the media is that the impacts of the sequester are both widespread and slow-moving, and the media is terrible at covering things like that.
Another obvious reason is that much of the sequester's impacts are on people without much—or any—political power: poor families and their children and furloughed government workers just don't have the same capacity to get attention as Republicans whining about White House tours.
But one of the biggest reasons is that nobody in a position of leadership is talking about simply repealing the sequester. To the extent that there's been a debate in D.C. about ending the sequester, it's actually been about how to replace it. And—surprise, surprise—it turns out that it's really hard to generate enthusiasm for replacing one set of budget cuts with another set of budget cuts, especially, especially when that other set of budget cuts includes tax hikes on the rich, which Republicans hate, and cuts to Medicare and Social Security which just about everyone (including Republicans, unless they are in D.C.) also hate.
Perhaps if President Obama's position had been that the sequester should be replaced entirely with tax hikes on the wealthy he'd have had an easier time building enthusiasm for his position, but that would have been inconsistent with his whole "balanced approach" schtick. But with Republicans refusing to do anything on taxes at all, it makes it virtually impossible to negotiate about getting rid of the sequester.
Unless that changes, it means the next opportunity to do anything about the sequester will be the 2014 midterms. I'm not sure what the best message would be for that, but one thing I'm certain of is that it can't be a message focused on pleading with Republicans to accept a balanced compromise to replace the sequester. It can't be a message about making an Excel spreadsheet look pretty in 2073. It needs to be a message about moving past the sequester and toward a fiscal policy that will invest in America and deal with our country's number one economic priority: creating jobs to grow the middle class.