CNN Freaks Out Over 'Draconian' Sequester Cuts, Like the 'Asteroid'

Even though the upcoming sequester cuts amount to only $85 billion, compared to $16 trillion of U.S. debt, CNN hyped the deleterious effects of the cuts to the economy by comparing them to the recent asteroid that just missed earth.

"Watch out. Like the asteroid headed to earth, they're coming. $86 billion in automatic budget cuts," anchor Carol Costello warned. And "draconian" was in the CNN talking points as Costello and her colleague Christine Romans repeatedly gave that label to the cuts.

Like it did in 2011 when spending cuts were on the table, CNN hyped the effects the cuts would have on its viewers, like tourists at National Parks or travelers at airports. Romans relayed the Obama administration's numbers for the estimated loss of kids from Head Start preschool programs.

"So we let these draconian budget cuts take place. You know who's going to suffer the most? It's not going to be Congress. It's not going to be the President. Maria, it's going to be us," Costello huffed.

"[T]hese were never supposed to happen. This was supposed to be something that was so terrible, it would force Democrats and Republicans to the table to figure out our fiscal mess and it just didn't work," lamented Romans.

Conservative guest Will Cain insisted that the cuts could be a good thing: "$1.2 trillion over 10 years. It's a step in the right direction. Small step. It's slowly turning the Titanic or the battleship around."

However, Costello voiced her displeasure at both parties for blaming each other instead of working to avoid the sequester: "This strikes me as so irresponsible, Jason!"

A transcript of the segments, which aired on CNN Newsroom on February 19, is as follows:

[9:13 a.m. EST]

CHRISTINE ROMANS: And I guess the first question is what is the sequester, this wonky, horrible budget Washington word you keep hearing? It's a fancy word for budget cuts, forced budget cuts. You could also think of the sequester as the "or else." Last year it was decided we had to get our budget deficit under control, Democrats and Republicans together, or else, or else we would have these draconian spending cuts start the beginning part of this year. They didn't get their budget act together and this is the "or else," the big budget cuts that are automatically going to happen. It's really frustrating, Carol, because this was never – these were never supposed to happen. This was supposed to be something that was so terrible, it would force Democrats and Republicans to the table to figure out our fiscal mess and it just didn't work.

COSTELLO:  No, it just proves how dysfunctional Congress really is.

ROMANS: Yes. Yes.

COSTELLO: Okay, so those draconian cuts, we hear often how it will affect the military but how will it affect me?

ROMANS: It will affect all of us if these go into place. And let me tell you why. First look at education for example, you would have cuts to education, it could be by some estimates up to 70,000 kids could lose their Head Start positions, more than 14,000 teachers and staff could be laid off. It would affect criminal justice, border patrol, for example, the security of the border. Also, all FBI workers would have to be furloughed for up to 14 days. Look at the parks, you would have the National Park Service reduced hours, reduced services, something would you certainly feel on your summer travel. And travel, speaking of travel, what about longer wait times at airports, longer to get through TSA because of again, furloughs, unpaid time off for folks simply because they don't have the budget anymore. You're talking about budget cuts for defense of 13 percent and for other agencies of 9 percent. It would certainly affect just about everything that you feel. What you see on that screen right there, Carol, this is what Senate Democrats have proposed to replace the sequester. They've got more gradual defense cuts, they've got stopping direct payments to farmers, they'd like to tax the rich, they'd like to end some tax breaks, some loopholes for sending jobs overseas, loopholes, for example for energy companies they say they could come up with billions that way to replace the sequester. Presumably the President is going to outline what he'd like to see happen later today when we hear from him. The sequester, a stupid Washington word for something that was never supposed to happen that will be budget cuts that you and I will feel.

COSTELLO: I like when you say it like it is. Just makes you want to beat your head against the wall, doesn't it?
       
ROMANS: No, don't beat our heads. Our heads are fine. It's Washington!

(...)

[10:38 a.m. EST]

CAROL COSTELLO: Now to our second "Talk Back" topic of the hour. Question, what would you say to Congress to avoid forced budget cuts? Watch out. Like the asteroid headed to earth, they're coming. $86 billion in automatic budget cuts. And don't bother trying to duck. The President reduced to begging Congress with dire warnings on the impact on small business, first responders and children.

(Video Clip)

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: 2013 can be a year of solid growth, more jobs and higher wages. But that will only happen if we put a stop to self-inflicted wounds in Washington. Everyone in Washington needs to focus not on politics, but on what's right for the country.

(End Video Clip)

COSTELLO:  Really? The President keeps talking about new taxes even though Republicans say that's dead in the water. Nobody's even talking about a deal. Many Republicans say if these forced budget cuts are what it takes to cut spending, then bring it on, however, painful. They like to remind us it was Obama's idea and they're now calling it Obamaquester. For both sides, isn't it more about the blame game now? It always boils down to that, doesn't it? Question, what would you say to Congress to avoid forced budget cuts? Will Cain.

WILL CAIN: I'm going to give you two answers. First is do nothing. Allow them to go through. $1.2 trillion over 10 years. It's a step in the right direction. Small step. It's slowly turning the Titanic or the battleship around. But look, I know the sequester's not ideal. It's a blunt non-prioritized spending cut. So what would my second answer be because of that? It would be put together a comprehensive deal to reduce our debt and deficit. But I've lost faith in Congress' ability to come together to some kind of grand bargain, some kind of grand deal. So go forward with the $1.2 trillion. And by the way, politicians are going to grandstand it. It's Washington Monumenting, like when the Interior Department is threatened with cuts, they always say they're going to shut down the Washington Monument as though there's not other things we can shut down, not other cuts we can make.

COSTELLO: This strikes me as so irresponsible, Jason!

(...)

COSTELLO: So we let these draconian budget cuts take place. You know who's going to suffer the most? It's not going to be Congress. It's not going to be the President. Maria, it's going to be us.

(...)

[10:45 a.m. EST]

COSTELLO: So in five or ten minutes, President Obama will address the nation, he'll try to convince members of Congress to come up with some sort of deal, he'll surround himself with people who will be affected by these draconian budget cuts. So Jason what does the President need to say to get a deal done?
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014