"Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn."
— The Joker in "The Dark Knight"
No one can continue to assert that President Obama is simply incompetent. Yes, he is indeed that. Into his fifth year as president, America is worse under his command: Millions are still out of work — unemployment stands exactly where it was the day he took office; millions more are on food stamps; and despite his claim otherwise, the U.S. is less respected in the world than ever before.
But that was all before the "sequester." The order trims every dollar spent by the federal government — read: your money — by a paltry 2 cents. To understand the enormity of the cut, consider this: The 2013 budget calls for $3,603 billion in spending; now, with the across-the-board automatic cuts, the government can spend only $3,518 billion. Or $3.518 trillion.
For perspective, the federal budget began its rocketlike ascent in 1976. The year before, spending was a scant $331 billion (with a B) in current dollars. The first year Jimmy Carter was in office, it soared to $409 billion. President Reagan, in the midst of the Cold War, continued the deficit spending. By 1987, expenditures topped $1 trillion for the first time. Under President George W. Bush, the budget soared above $2 trillion. And in 2009, the budget went from $2.9 trillion to $3.5 trillion. Estimates show that cash outlays will top $4 trillion just two years from now.
But the annual deficit was not always commensurate with the growing budget. In 1987, the shortfall was just $149.7 billion. In Mr. Bush's next-to-last year, just $160.7 billion. But in 2009, the year a community organizer from Chicago took office, the deficit ballooned to $1,400 billion. With three $3 trillion-plus budgets under this president, the deficit has remained above $1 trillion each year — even as tax revenue has averaged about $2.2 trillion.
There is little merit in arguments against spending cuts, and not a speck of support for the theory that America can tax itself out of its growing sinkhole. The federal government has simply grown too large, spends too much. We're now borrowing 35 cents of every dollar we spend. Like any family faced with with a shortfall of cash, the first — and, really, only — solution is to reduce spending. It's not rocket science. And Americans are doing just that every day.
So, with all the doom and gloom, what did the president do? Did he seek to sooth America, allay its citizens' fear of Armageddon? Say, "Hey, you are tightening your belt, so the least your government can do is cut spending"? Quite the contrary. The president has spent the last few weeks needling up the horrors that will come from cutting a scant 2 cents from ever federal dollar spent. America will be less safe, parks will shut down, food will go uninspected, illegal aliens will run free, the elderly will die unattended — the list went on and on.
Republicans offered the president a chance to make his own cuts. Democrats in the Senate, no doubt at his direction, rejected the bill. And it was the president himself who devised the automatic budget cuts, even though he claims the Republicans are solely to blame.
Rush Limbaugh has been saying for months that the president is not the least bit interested in the welfare of the country — instead, he wants to kill the Republican Party for good. And he's right. Last week's intransigence makes that clear. Republicans were ready to negotiate: not on taxes, House Speaker John A. Boehner said, but on how — and who — the coming cuts hit. The president didn't budge.
But there's more. Like The Joker, Mr. Obama wants to see the world burn. The last thing he cares about is the plight of American families. No, the president wants to gut the Republican Party so he can win back a majority in Congress in 2014 — and secure his legacy. And he's fully prepared to spur chaos to get what he wants.
When lawmakers were engaged in fierce, partisan negotiations, the president could have said: "I see this as this huge opportunity, and it's being squandered by politics, by people who are more interested in a political victory than they are in doing what's right for the country."
But he didn't. Who did?
Mitt Romney. Whatever his shortfalls, at least he doesn't want to see the world burn. "The hardest thing about losing is watching this, this critical moment, this golden moment, just slip away with politics," he said.
Makes you wonder where the country would be right now if Americans had elected him. But for those who thought him a fool, at least he wasn't The Joker.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times and is now editor of the Drudge Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @josephcurl.