A few weeks ago, Ann Coulter announced that she was bored of American politics and was spending her days watching Turner Classic Movies. I confess that, when it comes to Beltway melodrama, I too am fighting vainly the old ennui, and minded to plump up the pillows and settle back with a bucket of bonbons and a beribboned Shih-tzu for an all-night Norma Shearer marathon. At least, unlike Washington, there’s a chance you may catch something you haven’t already seen a hundred times before. For example, I’ve a yen to see Roberta (RKO, 1935), in which Irene Dunne sings:
Days I knew as happy sweet sequester’d days . . .
I believe that was the last known use of this blameless and mellifluous word until it was conscripted by the political class for this month’s dreary Mayan Apocalypse of the Month thrill ride. Say what you like about those Mayan guys, but they only schedule an apocalypse once every 5,126 years. Only Washington would try to pull it off every six weeks. If I understand correctly, by the time you read this, the planes will be dropping from the skies; the drip-feeds in every emergency room will be dry; every creature on the endangered species list will have broken free from our pristine federally manned national parks to be left for roadkill in the potholed asphalt of America’s crumbling interstates; you’ll turn on your bathroom faucet only to find the town reservoir choked with fecal coliform; the Ebola virus will be rampant across Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, and other swing states, where it will nevertheless enjoy higher approval ratings than Marco Rubio and every other prospective GOP nominee. The sequester supposedly cuts $44 billion from the federal budget — or from the rate of growth of the federal budget. Whatever. $44 billion is about what the United States government borrows every nine days, so it’s not a lot. But it’s apparently responsible for everything that matters in American life.
That being so, maybe it would be easier to reinstate this critical $44 billion and cut the other $3.8 trillion, which is apparently responsible for nothing other than Harry Reid’s beloved federally funded cowboy-poetry festival and the cost of the dress uniforms for the military detachment accompanying the first lady at her Oscars appearance. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, warned of “over 170 million jobs that could be lost” thanks to the sequester. There are only 135 million jobs in America, but the sequester gods are so powerful they can eliminate every job in Canada, Britain, and Germany too. Why, because of this weekend’s looming Mayan Apocalypse, President Obama declined to deploy a carrier to the Persian Gulf, concerned that it might be left on the other side of the planet completely sequestered with no fuel to limp back home and insufficient stores in the mess-hall larder to cook up federally compliant slop. So, when the mullahs go nuclear and drop the big one on Tel Aviv, it will be the fault of the Republicans for failing to agree to a prudent, balanced, fiscally responsible plan — like the Senate’s latest deficit-reduction proposal, which, as is traditional, increases the deficit (by $7 billion).
It’s not just the U.S. fleet and air-traffic control and clean water that have been swept into the garbage can of history by Sequestageddon, but even the most venerable Beltway colossus. In time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, but surely Bob Woodward is here to stay — or so we thought until he ventured some very mild criticism of the president’s negotiating technique, which appears to be a cross between a suicide-bomber and Cleavon Little taking himself hostage in Blazing Saddles. In a flash, Woodward’s four decades of loyal service were forgotten and the court eunuchs of the Obama media turned on their own: He’s about one news cycle away from being revealed as on the take from the Koch brothers and the real father of Trig Palin.
Speaking of the first lady’s Academy Awards appearance, I see she gave the Oscar for Best Film to Ben Affleck’s movie Argo. If you haven’t seen the picture, it’s about a group of government operatives whose ingenious plan to achieve their objectives depends on creating a fake movie as a cover story. Obama seems to have taken this inspiring tale to heart. In the Affleck version, the fake movie is a space opera for which John Goodman rustles up a few cheesy costume designs for some generic aliens. They make a promotional brochure, take out an ad in Variety, and hold a well-attended press conference, awash in cocktails and canapés. But there is no movie. And so it goes with Obama’s monthly cliffhangers. The White House press corps show up for the reception, and they all excitedly report the intriguing teasers about the white-knuckle thriller coming soon to your town: This weekend, Les Sequesterables, starring Maxine “I Dreamed a Dream” Waters and a cast of hundreds of millions of downtrodden laid-off extras; next week Zero Debt Thirty, in which Paul Ryan proposes cutting $30 from the federal budget and all civilized life comes to an end; next month Django Short-Changed, in which a retired bounty hunter discovers his Social Security check is a buck seventy-three lower than usual because cruel plantation owners like Mitt Romney aren’t willing to pay their fair share; and coming soon No Silver Linings Playbook, in which Barack Obama warns yet again that total societal collapse is just around the corner but at the eleventh hour manages to avert it by swooping in with a daring, last-minute tax increase.
Government-by-fake-disaster-movie seems to be going swimmingly for Obama. Every Republican attempt at fiscal discipline now ends with both higher spending and more taxes: That’s the way it went with the Christmas blockbuster Fiscal Cliff, and that’s the way to bet with Les Sequesterables, too. Even the IRS can’t keep up: “Tax season” is upon us, and yet they’re not accepting tax returns from millions of Americans because the IRS hasn’t yet managed to process the tax changes passed in the dead of night at New Year. American government is a joke — and, sadly, not one of those jokes that everybody takes seriously and kicks up a fuss about, like Seth MacFarlane’s “We Saw Your Boobs” song that The New Yorker attacked for its “hostility to women in the workplace” or Joan Rivers’ joke about Heidi Klum’s Oscars gown that Abraham Foxman’s Anti-Defamation League is busy issuing stern denunciations of. No, in an America in which every throwaway gag is a hate crime, Obama’s fake disaster movie of the month is the only joke we all go along with, even though he’s insulting our intelligence far more than Seth and the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus singing “We Saw Your Boobs” to Anne Hathaway and Halle Berry.
Can you pierce the mists of time and go back all the way to the year 2007? Back then, federal spending was 40 percent lower than it is today. In a mere half-decade, has all that 40 percent gravy become so indispensable to the general welfare that not even a teensy-weensy sliver of it can be cut?
If you really believe that, then America is going to die, and a gullible citizenry willing to give this laughable charade the time of day will bear ultimate responsibility. We have seen the boobs, and they are us.