Washington, DC

OVER-RATED *clap* *clap* *clap clap clap*

It’s all a game in Washington – a very overrated one. Just like in basketball, baseball or pretty much any sport, numbers don’t lie. Unless the people twisting them to back-up their point of view are.

No one will deny that the arbitrary spending cuts that Washington self-imposed on the nation are at best, an inconvenience. Slicing $85 billion dollars for 7 months worth of the year is no joke, but President Obama has all but predicted an economic catastrophe.

But that’s where the numbers tell a different story. $85 billion dollars is only about a 2-3% cut in the Federal budget. If it were an average American making $40,000 a year, it would mean about an $1,000 decrease in pay. Well, that doesn’t sound insignificant! But what if you were a millionaire or billionaire? Would $20,000 of your $1 million salary seem like much to you? If you were dealing with trillions? Mere pocket change.

The PR war is underway – and the Democrats are winning. But should they? President Obama has made it abundantly clear the impacts he expects from the Sequester. Travel delays from poorly funded Air Traffic Controllers, fewer government jobs – the White House has even announced that spring tours of the national symbol will no longer be available. That’ s just to name a few. The picture that has been painted looks grim.

But, is The White House guilty of political gamesmanship? Evidence of air traffic delays had been non-existent in the 3+ days up until the “Snowquester” on the East Coast. The day the Sequester took place, an order for new TSA uniforms was placed for over $50 million. 400 new Defense related job postings were uploaded on Day 2 of Sequester, and Spring Tours of the White House have traditionally been done by non-paid volunteers. Guilty? As charged.

Both sides are guilty of their own gamesmanship. Republicans have seemingly refused to negotiate with Democratic leaders. But can you blame them? Republicans in the House are responsible to their constituencies, who want to see spending cuts. Democrats like Nancy Pelosi have denied any need for any spending cuts or entitlement reforms.

No one will say that spending cuts are easy – and they’re certainly not popular. Scarcity is a basic economic principle that the U.S. government has recently ignored. If the current national debt were broken up and distributed evenly amongst the population, you and I would each owe over $55,000 each. Entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are all within about 10 years of insolvency. Young people are wondering why they have to pay the bills for a benefit they will certainly not enjoy under current circumstances.

Democrats have a vested interest in playing the blame game here – and they’re winning. About 40% of people in a recent Pew Poll said that they would primarily blame the Republicans for the Sequester, compared to just 20% for Democrats. Far from a majority, but it points to the media/PR war in Washington. Democrats know that if they can point enough fingers, that winning back the House in 2014 will be that much easier.

So what does all this mean? Well so far, the economy has barely noticed the on-set of spending cuts. While tax and entitlement reform, in addition to modest cuts to discretionary spending seem like a balanced idea, neither side will come out of their corners to deal. So long as the Sequester that Obama set up to look like the apocalypse is barely noticed, Republicans will stay where they are – happy that they could cut SOME spending, somehow.

What’s most ironic about the whole situation is that both parties are saying the same thing. The Sequester isn’t a good idea – yet, it was Obama’s bill that got us here. It’s a Congressman’s job to represent his or her District. A guy like John Boehner must stay true to his constituents. Sure, he’s the Speaker of the House, but his ultimate responsibility is to his people, most of whom are Republican. Same goes for Paul Ryan in Wisconsin or Aaron Schock in Illinois. Paging David Price… What’s your position?

The Sequester so far is a snoozer. Only, it had the hype of a March Madness match-up. In the stands, watching close by, it feels like a blow out so far. The hype is OVER-RATED.

I’m not writing to endorse the Republicans or the Democrats. Perhaps I’m here to try and strike a balance in the finger pointing that the Democrats are by all measures, winning. I AM writing to encourage both sides to get something done. I’m also encouraging anyone out there reading this to have a more critical eye on what’s being sold in the media – the blame should fall squarely between each party.

In between the two parties? Well that’s you President Obama. Perhaps you should stop accusing Republicans of playing the political game until you do the same. Step off the soap box, roll up the sleeves and moderate a healthy, balanced conversation that reaches a moderate solution: close tax loopholes, trim spending and reforms entitlements. Otherwise, I feel you too are OVER-RATED.

Ryan Watts is a Chapel Hill native and recent UNC graduate in Political Science and Business Administration. Now living in Washington DC, he works as a Consultant. You can find him on Twitter @RyanVWatts or at his blog.

image by paul-w via flickr