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Politico Articles On Sequestration Effects Ignore Actual Impact On Public

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SEQUESTRATION EFFECTS
Federal employees take part in a rally in front of the Department of Labor protesting budget cuts related to sequestration on March 20, 2013, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) | Getty Images

One thing that's important to understand is that sequestration is doing exactly what it was designed to do -- slowly grind away at the basic services that government at all levels provides its constituents, thus reducing everyone's quality of life, safety and economic security. So, if you're going to pretend to evince some concern about what sequestration is doing, you need to manifest some effort to get outside the whited sepulchres of Capitol Hill (and the White House tours story) and see what's actually happening to real human Americans.

And if you've any concern for what's happening to real human Americans, then it's easy to notice the fact that they are getting furloughed or losing their jobs outright, or their jobs are becoming more dangerous, or they are losing their housing subsidies, or essential services like Head Start are falling by the wayside along with services that keep the public safe, or make the criminal justice system work...one could go on and on and on and on.

But the operative word there is "concern," and much of what is written about sequestration comes from a concern-free perspective that favors covering the story as if it were just some great and abstract political debate, where the only effects of sequestration worth talking about are the effects it has on the political fortunes of elite politicians and their respective parties. It's like watching "Game Of Thrones" -- an epic battle of will that is entertainment for entertainment's sake. (In this way, the "Sequester Crisis" has become like the still ongoing unemployment crisis -- something that only impacts whether or not politicians get reelected.)

Leading the way in the post-concern era of journalism is, of course, Politico, and on Friday it featured a pair of posts from Darren Samuelsohn that strictly enforce the notion that sequestration is a phenomenon that solely impacts two political parties and their respective fantasia-battles. These posts are titled "Sequester: Democratic theory of the case" and "Sequester: Republican theory of the case" as if there is something -- yes...theoretical happening in America. Each is gloriously disconnected from the real world in ways that will make your brain hurt.

I'm not kidding. This is how the "Republican theory of the case" begins:

To figure out why Republicans are winning the sequester wars, look at two numbers.

Federal employees have so far taken no furlough days. And the stock market hit an all-time record earlier this month, with the Dow closing Thursday at 14,578.

Amid all that, it’s pretty hard for most of the public to understand what the Democrats were talking about, with all their gloom-and-doom chatter earlier this year.

Good glory be. Yes, it's only the end of March, but it will be hard for political reporters and pundits to write something more pathetically out-of-touch than those three paragraphs. The emphasis on "federal employees" and their "furlough days" is a grotesque exertion in avoiding the very real fact that outside of the federal government, furloughs are falling near and far, on all sorts of Americans. And the stock market's performance (which is, by the way, NOT AT AN "ALL TIME HIGH") is about as far removed from the real-world concerns of vulnerable Americans as I am from Sri Lanka at this very moment.

But here's the thing: there are precisely zero Republicans, anywhere in this story, that speak a blessed word about federal furloughs. There is not so much as a sigh heaved about the Dow Jones Industrial Average. There is a contention, from "former House Republican leadership aide John Feehery" that "most Americans" are "not going to notice much of a difference." As I've demonstrated with the flurry of links above, this is false. From there, you have Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) fretting about sequestration being used as a "political tool" (which is precisely what the sequestration was designed to be, and precisely what Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) liked about it), and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) sounding similar concerns about the "optics," which...yeah, buddy, you think?

So, this notion that real human Americans are not noticing the sequestration because federal employees aren't yet getting furloughed and the Dow is cooking along is not a "Republican theory of the case" (to which I say, good for Republicans!). Rather, it is Samuelsohn's theory, which he fails to even attempt to make. Instead, he just presents it as a given:

Amid all that, it’s pretty hard for most of the public to understand what the Democrats were talking about, with all their gloom-and-doom chatter earlier this year.

Well, if you are a cloistered nimrod, then sure, you might have a hard time understanding what all the "gloom-and-doom chatter" was about. If you've been paying a lick of attention to the actual gloom and the actual doom, then I think you'd agree that you'd have to be an epic piece of human garbage to suggest that a family losing its rent subsidy is sitting back, just chilling because Wall Street is going gangbusters and so everything must be secretly fine.

Samuelsohn somehow thinks that the economy is definitively "on the mend" because of "housing starts," but this neatly overlooks the dismal outlook for the global economy, the significant crisis of long-term unemployment, the coming student loan crisis, the fact that wages and household incomes are in a tailspin, and that 121 percent of the total post-crash "recovery" has gone to the top 1 percent of income earners.

It's also worth pointing out that in fact, normal human Americans do not share Samuelsohn's rosy outlook of an economy "on the mend." Their expectations are, in fact, quite low.

But, you know...details.

Turning now to Samuelsohn's "Democratic theory of the case." Here, Samuelsohn begins by contending, "The public has largely tuned out the Democrats’ repeated warnings about mid-air plane crashes, troop deaths and mass illness from tainted meat if the sequester cuts stay in place." Perhaps no normal human Americans have specifically homed in on "Democrats' repeated warnings," but I'll point out again that, as the many links provided in the second paragraph of this article demonstrate, it is false to suggest that the public has somehow "tuned out" the negative impact of sequestration on their lives.

Nevertheless, Samuelsohn continues: "But Democrats aren’t dropping the threat of disaster, seizing now on the line they think can beat the Republicans: law and order."

Okay, great! The good news here is that this actually is a "Democratic theory of the case of the theory of the whatever" -- it's a point that Democrats are actually choosing to make. But here is where we can actually test this theory that the public has "tuned out" the idea that sequestration is going to have an effect on "law and order," because lo, Samuelsohn actually includes a statement from a member of the "public." Let's see if that statement proves or negates Samuelsohn's own premise:

Dale Deshotel, president of the Council of Prison Locals, said he’s growing more concerned as the Bureau of Prisons starts slicing $339 million this fiscal year and imposes 12 mandated furlough days for all its employees.

To deal with the cuts, prison wardens are subbing in guards who aren’t as prepped as regular staff for dealing with emergencies.

“I’m hopeful we see the signs before so we don’t have a full blown riot or get somebody killed or have one of these prisons burn to the ground,” said Deshotel, who has worked for 27 years as a maintenance worker at the Federal Correctional Complex in Oakdale, La.

Ha ha, well, as I suspected, the answer is "negates the premise." And the hilarious thing is, Samuelsohn just keeps right on negating it. We get a Marine general worried that he's going to lose funding that monitors drug trafficking and "public health experts" concerned about their ability to monitor "outbreaks" and prevent "bioterrorism attacks." The president of the Aerospace Industries Association also weighs in on whether the next "community that gets hit with a super storm" will be adequately assisted, and the National Park Service director frets over the fact "that federal firefighting efforts will be under deep stress later this year because of sequestration."

Where are these members of the public, who have "tuned out" the "gloom and doom" talk of sequestration? They are nowhere. The next person Samuelsohn finds who has done this "tuning out" will be the first one.

The amazing thing is that Samuelsohn is likely sitting on a number of very good stories about the way sequestration is going to impact the lives of real human Americans, and if he had an interest in these matters, he'd follow up on those scoops, report out a number of very good stories, and probably do more to move the needle back toward everyone on Capitol Hill taking their jobs seriously and getting back to the negotiating table. He doesn't. He just has a set of claims, which he fails to substantiate, because they just can't be substantiated.

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