Obama Holding the U.S. Hostage: Opinion

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- President Barack Obama is at it again. Unable to manage the government or the economy effectively, he threatens to victimize taxpayers and stick Republicans with the blame.

It appears likely sequestration will require $85 billion in cuts to defense and non-entitlement government spending.

Unwilling to acknowledge the government has a spending problem -- over the last five years, outlays are up $1 trillion and three times the amount required by inflation -- and that tax revenue are short because his policies have instigated the weakest recovery since the Great Depression, Obama is threatening draconian measures if Republicans don't agree to more taxes.

Obama has announced meat inspectors will be furloughed and food shortages will result. His cabinet secretaries have threatened three-hour waits at airports to clear security, reduced embassy protection and border patrols, cutting the Persian Gulf Naval presence from two aircraft carriers to one, and the list goes on ....

Repeatedly, the Obama has exclaimed if congressional Republicans don't cooperate, spending cuts now could derail the hard-won recovery. It puzzles me how $85 billion in a $16 trillion economy could make such a difference, especially when tax increases of similar size, implemented on Jan. 1 at Obama's behest, had no similar effect in his mind.

The U.S. Constitution charges the President of the United States with running the government effectively on the money Congress provides. While appropriation legislation limits the fungibility of funds, the administration has considerable discretion allocating the 10% cuts in non-entitlement spending.

Military marching bands have more personnel than the State Department's Foreign Service has employees. I would rather jettison some tubas than Marine guards at embassies.

The Agriculture Department has one of the largest staffs of economists in the world, and the Social Security Administration employs a similar crop of dull number-crunchers. I fear for my brethren, but safe food is more important than yet another dull research paper.

To provide fuel and munitions to maintain the carrier presence in the Gulf, it would be better to trim ballooning military health-care costs, something Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has expressed sympathy about addressing.

That would require longer-term reforms, but Obama has refused to look at skyrocketing spending with a critical eye. He talks about balanced approaches to deficit reduction -- half spending and half taxes. However, instead of matching increases in payroll and income taxes imposed Jan. 1 with spending cuts, he pushed through more spending on unemployment insurance and other initiatives.

Now Obama is unwilling to manage effectively $85 billion in cuts across a $3.8 trillion government. Remember, administrative, research and public affairs outlays associated with entitlements are fair game, too. What about the White House budget?

Instead, he would rather blackmail Americans with food shortages, long lines at airports and the like, and invoke the specter of another recession to gain political advantage over the Republicans.

Whether a second recession occurs is already baked in the cake. Obama's high taxes, and those imposed by Democratic governors from Maryland to California, have forced consumers to trim purchases, retailers and wholesalers are reporting weaker traffic and are trimming inventories, and corporate leaders have announced plans to cut new investments and hiring owing to weak demand and more burdensome health-care costs and regulations.

When you can't get hamburger at the supermarket and unemployment rises this spring, Obama will do what he does best, cast blame on Republicans for permitting sequestration, but it is the American people that bear the burden of presidential disregard for the responsibilities of his office and the harmful effects of his policies.

Perhaps, Obama should read less Lincoln and behave more like Truman, the man from Missouri for whom "the buck stops here."

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Professor Peter Morici, of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, is a recognized expert on economic policy and international economics. Prior to joining the university, he served as director of the Office of Economics at the U.S. International Trade Commission. He is the author of 18 books and monographs and has published widely in leading public policy and business journals, including the Harvard Business Review and Foreign Policy. Morici has lectured and offered executive programs at more than 100 institutions, including Columbia University, the Harvard Business School and Oxford University. His views are frequently featured on CNN, CBS, BBC, FOX, ABC, CNBC, NPR, NPB and national broadcast networks around the world.

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