Sunday, September 9, 2012
On August 7 of this year, Congress passed and the President signed the “Sequester Transparency Act.” The “sequester” in the title refers to the automatic reductions in government spending that will occur if Congress fails to increase our ability to borrow more than $16.4 trillion, a ceiling we’re expected to reach in January. That’s January 2013, to be precise, just a few months from now. That moment defines the edge of the “fiscal cliff” we call keep hearing about.
The reductions in government spending are widely expected to be devastating for an already struggling economy. Accordingly, the Sequester Transparency Act ordered, as a matter of law, the President to produce a report detailing the precise reductions in defense and other government spending that the Administration would implement at the edge of the cliff, so to speak. The deadline for that report was Friday, a deadline that the President missed, indicating through his Press Secretary that it would be available “late next week.”
“Are you kidding me?!!” Wow. Did I say that out loud? You bet I did. Is there anything more important that getting that report out? Forget about the reckless disregard for law that orders the report to be produced by last Friday. As a practical matter, Congress is coming back into session tomorrow and needs all the time it can get to understand the consequences of inaction and figure out what it wants to do. To not have this report ready, however difficult and complicated the process of preparing it, is an unmistakable sign of the lack of focus and incompetence that characterizes the Obama Administration’s approach to economic recovery and fiscal management.
Even if it means not campaigning. Even if means losing the election, it was the President’s obligation to his country to respect the Sequester Transparency Act and to have done whatever it takes to produce the report, as required by law, on a timely basis. To argue that he, President Obama personally, isn’t actually preparing the report or that he’s “in touch” with his Administration even while he’s on the campaign trail is nonsense – and not what professional managers in high stakes, critical situations do.
We have the wrong man (person) in the wrong place at the wrong time. If we don’t go off the fiscal cliff, it will not be President Obama who saved us, but rather it is the President whose lack of leadership, poor management and failure to compromise drove us to this point. Unbelievably, it will be Congress itself, under the pressure of election season campaign hysteria, that does a last minute 180 and saves the day or, more likely, postpones the crisis for another few months.