Jonathan Chait: George Will: Intentional Irrationality Now Bad:
George F. Will visits the National Institutes of Health, and produces a column praising the economic and humanitarian power of federal science research. Sadly, Will observes, budget sequestration is imposing needless, infuriating hardship on the agency's work: "much research proposed by extraordinarily talented physicians and scientists cannot proceed because the required funding is prevented by the intentional irrationality by which the sequester is administered."
He’s right. Sequestration is incredibly irrational…. Sequestration exists because, in 2011, House Republicans threatened to wreak havoc upon the world economy unless President Obama made large ideological concessions…. The idea was to force some eventual agreement between the two sides that would replace sequestration with a mix of cuts to retirement programs and closing tax deductions. But, after Obama won reelection, Republicans decided as a party to embrace sequestration as its preferred policy…. Part of this campaign involved mocking Obama’s argument that sequestration was terrible policy. A key figure in this campaign was George F. Will. Here’s one Will column, a long sneering polemic against Obama’s warnings about sequestration. It involves the use of words like “forfend”:
Batten down the hatches — the sequester will cut $85 billion from this year’s $3.6 trillion budget! Or: Head for the storm cellar — spending will be cut 2.3 percent! Or: Washington chain-saw massacre — we must scrape by on 97.7 percent of current spending! Or: Chaos is coming because the sequester will cut a sum $25 billion larger than was just shoveled out the door(supposedly, but not actually) for victims of Hurricane Sandy! Or: Heaven forfend, the sequester will cut 47 percent as much as was spent on the AIG bailout! Or: Famine, pestilence and locusts will come when the sequester causes federal spending over 10 years to plummet from $46 trillion all the way down to $44.8 trillion! Or: Grass will grow in the streets of America’s cities if the domestic agencies whose budgets have increased 17 percent under President Obama must endure a 5 percent cut!… Today, while Obama prepares a governmental power grab to combat global warming, sensible Americans, tuckered out with apocalypse fatigue, are yawning through the catastrophe du jour, the sequester. They say: Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the hamsters of sequestration.
That was the Republican line… this is still the Republican line…. Will’s column does not acknowledge any of these things--the GOP’s embrace of sequestration, let alone his own sneering at the prospect that sequestration might do any harm…. It’s Obama’s fault: “beginning with the indiscriminate and ineffective 2009 stimulus, government has incited indiscriminate hostility to public spending.” Ah, so the hostility is “indiscriminate,” but Obama “incited” it…. If you’re conceding that your own position amounts to “intentional irrationality” and “indiscriminate hostility to public spending,” maybe you should actually, you know, admit that.