WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama and political prognosticators are once again warning that fiscal doomsday is imminent.
The cause this time: $85 billion in spending cuts through September that could hurt preschools for low income kids, weaken military readiness and worsen travel delays at airports.
But Americans appear indifferent to the “sky-is-falling” rhetoric out of Washington with no congressional deal in sight ahead of Friday’s deadline to avert the mandatory austerity.
“There is a kind of familiarity with brinksmanship politics and budgeting,” said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University historian and CNN contributor. “A large portion of the public will tune it out. There’s a numbing affect.”
The public in recent years has endured one fiscal or economic-related crisis after another emanating from the capital — the excruciating debate over federal stimulus, banking and auto bailouts, repeated short-term funding extensions, threats of government shutdowns, a protracted debt-ceiling fight, and rumbles over deficits and taxes culminating with this year’s fiscal cliff showdown.
Lawmakers stilled played the blame game on Thursday as Republican and Democratic alternatives to the sequester failed to move forward in the Senate.
People have had enough.
“I have just about given up. Right now, I agree more with the pope for resigning when he has the capacity to do so under no duress. He is smarter than some up there in Washington who have no business being there. Sure, the founding fathers did not vote on term limits, but the lifespan of a person was not what is now. That is why nothing ever changes,” Allison Cox wrote on CNN Politics’ Facebook page.
According to a new Washington Post-Pew research Center poll, just one in four of those surveyed are paying close attention to the current fiscal crisis consuming Washington.
During the fiscal cliff saga, nearly four-in-10 Americans, or 38%, told Pew they followed passage of the related legislation very closely.
This time around, 18% of those polled said they understood the impact of the looming cuts, which cut across the entire government and take a substantial bite out of the defense budget.
Just over 60% felt the cuts would have a major impact on the nation’s economy and that the impact would be mostly negative.
But they just aren’t sure of the impact, exactly.
Then there is the word sequester — a technical mouthful that doesn’t quite convey the same drama and sizzle as “fiscal cliff,” Zelizer said.
The whole thing has just left many people feeling befuddled and disaffected.
“Confused and feeling insignificant,” Lauralee Sessions Wagner wrote on the CNN Politics Facebook page of how she and others are feeling over the proposed cuts.
The White House has kicked into overdrive trying to underscore what it sees as the dire nature of the cuts.
It rolled out fact sheets outlining potential drawbacks for states, aviation safety, federally funded preschool programs, military readiness and border patrols.
A cavalcade of agency heads have gone before Congress and the cameras bemoaning the potential impact of cuts.
This week, the president stood before a subdued group of ship workers in Newport News, Virginia, to highlight the pain everyday Americans will feel under sequester.
Republican congressional leaders blame the White House for proposing the sequester in the first place, which came about in 2011 as a draconian consequence of doing nothing to curb deficits.
The GOP says Obama and Democrats are failing to offer serious proposals to reduce the deficit, while Obama and his supporters say Republicans in Congress refuse to compromise on the inclusion of more tax revenue as part of the solution.
Those are well-worn arguments.
Such partisan parsing and games of political chicken have become part of the new reality of how things get done in Washington, Jim Manley, a one-time top aide to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said recently.
“In light of the hyper partisanship gripping D.C. it’s the new normal until things in Washington get sorted out,” Manley said. “Nothing can happen until the maximum force is pressed on the process and then movement can occur.”
This new reality means nose-to-nose confrontation until the other side blinks. The consequence of blinking could mean political consequences, mainly a backlash from the base.
Maybe. But there are also plenty of people who are weary of the new politics as usual.
“Another day, another government created crisis. Ho hum. The first thing to do when digging a hole too deep is to stop digging. If the simple minded can’t understand, then (sic) need to suffer,” Phil Todd wrote on the CNN Politics Facebook page.