Hours before the federal spending sequester began on March 1, when President Barack Obama predicted that "People are going to be hurt," he did not add, Trust me, I'll make sure of it. But he might as well have, as this week's furloughs of air traffic controllers make obvious.
The furloughs reflect panic: Having exaggerated their early predictions that the sequester's small reduction in spending growth would seriously affect Americans, many Democrats are hell-bent to pre-empt those Americans from drawing two logical conclusions: If one level of cuts is this painless, then maybe we should make ... more cuts to expenditures. And while we're at it, maybe we should ignore the politicians who told us that if Washington lowered the spending growth curve ... the Earth will fly into the sun.
Earlier this month, then, you could anticipate a White House effort to enrage the public when that same public preached blasphemy to McClatchy-Marist pollsters: The percentage of Americans who didn't think the sequester cuts are affecting the economy rose by 13 points over the prior month (from 27 to 40 percent), while the percentage who did think the cuts harm the economy fell by 11 points (from 47 to 36 percent).
The "White House effort to enrage the public" was almost amusing to watch when it involved such relatively trivial things as ending White House tours and cutting back national park hours. But the administration's willingness to inflict real pain on citizens shows a downright frightening commitment to more and higher taxes. That such a tiny, tiny cut (and it's a cut in planned increases, not a real rollback to smaller levels) can elicit such panic is still a little hard for me to believe.