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Sequesterphobia

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

By the time you read this column, the world will have ended.

However, on the off-chance that the Earth is still spinning, your belly is likely full of botulism contracted from the horse-meat hamburger you ate for lunch. Although you're fatally ill, you can get no professional medical help because all hospitals and clinics have been shuttered. Your only option is to self-medicate.

Attempting to cook up some homemade medicines, you accidentally set your house ablaze. You escape the inferno, but only barely, because no firefighters speed to your rescue. Stumbling into the street, you see swarms of illegal aliens newly released from prison and preying upon schoolchildren who are still trying to recover from their disappointment at learning that their scheduled tour of the White House was canceled.

Financial markets have tanked: The Dow fell earlier in the day from 14,059 to 0.003. The NASDAQ is negative.

Alas, none of this economic news matters much, given that the Canadian army, having swarmed across our border as soon as the Pentagon became impotent, is now occupying all of America to fulfill Ottawa's dream of seeing the maple-leaf flag fly without interruption from Barrow, Alaska, to Key West, Fla.

Welcome to Sequestered America. This America is the unavoidable result of a 3-percent (more or less) across-the-board (more or less) cut in Uncle Sam's spending. Or, at any rate, this is the America warned of by certain politicians and their partisan pundits.

I confess that I am exaggerating today's sequesterphobia a bit. But in my defense, I thought that exaggeration is part of the game we're all playing.

If President Obama gets away with announcing with a straight face that the public servants who work for agencies such as the TSA and the Department of Agriculture cannot absorb teeny cuts in their bloated budgets without jeopardizing the health, happiness, safety and convenience of every American, then clearly this political game is being played according to topsy-turvy rules.

I mean, we all know that no one spends money as carefully and wisely as does Congress — except, of course, each of the millions of bureaucrats that Congress employs to watch over us with tender care. And no one doubts that every cent in Uncle Sam's $3.8 trillion annual budget fulfills a vital public purpose that could not possibly in a million lifetimes be fulfilled by the private sector.

That's why even the smallest reduction in Uncle Sam's spending cannot be tolerated. And that's also why no one should take seriously writers such as economist Thomas Sowell, who would have us believe unbelievable lies about government officials. In what universe does Professor Sowell live that would lead him to open a recent column with these paragraphs?:

“Back in my teaching days, many years ago, one of the things I liked to ask the class to consider was this: Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing life-saving medications to children. If this agency's budget were cut, what would it do?

“The answer, of course, is that it would cut back on the medications for children. Why? Because that would be what was most likely to get the budget cuts restored.”

My gosh, Professor Sowell's view of political reality is so very unrealistic.

Donald J. Boudreaux is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. His column appears twice monthly.

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