Like the little boy who cried wolf, the White House has decided that if there isn't a crisis, you can create one and take advantage of it. That sums up President Obama's approach to the looming sequestration.
To hear Mr. Obama describe it, one might be led to believe that come Saturday, America will be in an episode of "Survivor" -- without teachers, firefighters, air-traffic controllers, etc. The president's antics might make for funny reality TV, but the underlying scare tactics belie reality and are truly beneath the dignity of a serious debate.
Mr. President, whether you padlock our national parks, parade our preschoolers out of Head Start, send our air-traffic controllers home or promise longer lines at the airline TSA checkpoints, grandstanding isn't problem-solving.
To be sure, the indiscriminate sequester reductions make little sense. That's why, despite the president's threats to veto any attempt to alter sequestration, House Republicans have twice passed and sent the Senate legislation to make alternative savings in government spending. What the president refuses to understand is this is a matter of priorities. All government spending is not created equal. Some spending, like protecting our nation's security and honoring our commitments to our veterans and Social Security recipients, are truly more important than other spending, like presidential vacations to Hawaii, Aspen, Martha's Vineyard and Palm Beach.
With the already-once-delayed sequestration scheduled to kick in Friday, the only solution the president seems willing to embrace is taking more from hardworking taxpayers so the federal government can keep spending.
In February, Mr. Obama decided that it was more important to put millions on the taxpayers' tab to golf with Tiger Woods while his family skied in Aspen than it was to stay in Washington and work with Congress to address a "crisis" of his own making.
While all sorts of numbers have been bandied about, the reality is that sequestration will only reduce actual outlays by the federal government by $44 billion out of a total of more than $3.5 trillion in the current fiscal year. Cutting 1.25 cents out of every dollar the government will spend in the current fiscal year is not a crisis. The mere idea that the president can't work with Congress to come up with a plan to responsibly save less than 2 cents out of every dollar the government spends doesn't even pass the laugh test.
This boils down to choices.
Is it sound policy to defer the refueling of our Navy's nuclear vessels, after wasting billions on failed solar energy companies?
Is it sound policy to cut Head Start and child vaccine funding, while continuing to spend billions on free cellphones for people on welfare programs?
Is it sound policy to slash funding to Texas' military bases used to train all Air Force recruits, certify Patriot and Hawk missiles, test tanks, and train Navy, Air Force and Marine pilots, mechanics, doctors and nurses, while the Pentagon spends $1 million fantasizing about sending a starship to another solar system, $5.2 million to determine what lessons about democracy and social decision-making could be learned from fish, and an iPhone app to alert users when to take a coffee break?
Is it sound policy to cut grants for prosecution of criminals and to help domestic-violence victims when the Internal Revenue Service issues refundable tax credits to people who can't verify Social Security numbers for dependents they claim?
In the last Congress, I introduced legislation that contained a provision to require that the president prioritize all spending proposed in his annual budget. During this Congress, I'm improving on my plan, called the Maximizing America's Prosperity Act.
Unfortunately, we can't get this president to submit a budget on time, much less prioritize existing spending. For the fourth year, he has missed his legal deadline to submit a budget, and the Senate has ignored budget work altogether for nearly four straight years.
This debate -- and it's not a crisis -- all boils down to priorities.
It's unfair to the American people that the president is more willing to hold gimmicky press events than he is willing to take this job seriously. Instead of crying wolf, he could work with Congress to save less than 2 cents out of every tax dollar spent.
The campaign is over, Mr. President. You were re-elected. Start acting like it. The American people demand better than this. Right now, this nation needs some Main Street common sense more than the government needs its extra 2 cents.
Rep. Kevin Brady, Texas Republican, is chairman of the Joint Economic Committee and a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee.