The big news on local radio last Friday was the cancellation of a popular summer festival. The event in question is known as the Tattoo. It takes place at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and it appears that the festival is the latest victim of sequestration.
Given budget constraints, the base announced that it can no longer commit federal funds to the Tattoo when there is a threat of grounding flights and other cuts.
That the feds are funding a festival to begin with should give one pause, yet these are the insubstantial type of cuts that are rising to the forefront of the conversation with regard to sequestration.
Another: White House tours. This prompted many Republicans to proffer invitations to tour the Capitol building. Rep. Mike Turner even sent constituents a somewhat lame email to this effect.
All of this now that it’s past the deadline to stop the sequester. A few weeks ago, the tone was similar but the substance was arguably more significant. Various officials made claims—many of which were demonstrably false—that teachers and first responders would lose jobs, women would be abused, funding would be cut for either disabled or poor children, and so on.
Now, however, we’re lamenting the cancellation of tours that will almost certainly resume in the future, and a festival that could probably still go on with private funds. Such cuts are trivial and our focus on them has three effects:
First, the discussion comes with the assumption that cuts in general are bad and necessarily have detrimental economic effects. Second, there is an assumption that present spending levels are desirable, if not insufficient. Third, talk of festivals and tours shifts attention away from meaningful reforms and cuts.
That is to say, if festivals and tours are controversial, then any other cuts must be off-limits. Republicans play into these positions by engaging in politics with things like White House tours. It’s like a game where each side points out cuts the American people might not like in order to beat up on the other side.
Meanwhile, the feds will, in all likelihood, spend as much money as last year, if not more. And as previously noted, spending has doubled since the year 2000 while revenues have only increased by roughly one-fifth.