According to the journalists of Good Morning America, the end of the world is nigh. The hosts and reporters on Friday hyped the "massive" sequester cuts as leading to near panic. Josh Elliott opened the show by hyperventilating, "Jobs vaporizing, flights delayed, even criminals walking free." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Reporter Jon Karl intoned, "The day is upon us. Those dreaded across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect sometime before 11:59 p.m tonight." He then touted White House talking points: "The administration warns that in the coming weeks, we'll see flight delays, kids thrown out off Head Start and criminals get free due to a lack of federal prosecutors."
Karl eventually got around to conceding, "White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged the pain may not come right away." If this is true, why lead the show by raving about criminals roaming free and "jobs vaporizing?"
On February 25, Karl admitted, "But those cuts, five to seven percent for most government departments, will be phased in over the next seven months."
As CATO's Michael Tanner pointed out, the federal government spends $85 billion (the amount of the cuts) every 28 days. The sequestration makes up 2.3 percent of the budget, hardly "massive."
ABC's over-the-top tone is reminiscent of the government shut down in 1995:
"Monuments and national parks are shut. So are museums. A long-awaited rare exhibit of the Dutch painter Vermeer at the National Gallery, eight years in the making, is closed. And the shutdown now has a human face. Joe Skattleberry and his wife Lisa both work for the government. Both have been furloughed. They can't afford a Christmas tree."
-- ABC reporter Jack Smith, December 22, 1995 World News Tonight, the fifth day of the federal government shutdown.
A transcript of the March 1 segment follows:
JOSH ELLIOTT: Deadline day. Hours, now, until massive government cuts go into effect that could impact every American. Jobs vaporizing, flights delayed, even criminals walking free. The President and Congress blaming each other in the mess.
ABC GRAPHIC: Budget Armageddon Final Day: Tense Meeting With President Set
JOSH ELLIOTT: We turn now to Washington, D.C. where it is deadline day for those massive federal budget cuts due to take effect just before midnight tonight. ABC's Jonathan Karl tracking the latest at the White House right now. Good morning to you, Jon.
JON KARL: Good morning, Josh. The day is upon us. Those dreaded across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect sometime before 11:59 p.m tonight. And only now is the President having his first meeting with congressional leaders here at the White House to try to do something about it. Congress has now gone home for a long weekend. [Crickets sound plays] after failing to pass a plan to avert the sweeping $85 billion in cuts.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I cannot tell you how disgusted I am.
KARL: In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, Republican Lindsey Graham, cast blame not just on the President, but also on his own party.
GRAHAM: To me, this is pathetic leadership by the Commander in Chief. This is an abandonment of the Republican's Party's belief in peace through strength. This is a low point in my time in the United States Congress.
KARL: The finger-pointing is a little embarrassing, since both sides spent almost no time trying to come to an agreement.
JOHN BOEHNER: It is the President's sequester. It was his team that insisted on it.
HARRY REID: It's a shame our Republican colleagues have decided that protecting special interests is more important to them than the right thing for our economy.
KARL: So, now what? The administration warns that in the coming weeks, we'll see flight delays, kids thrown out off Head Start and criminals get free due to a lack of federal prosecutors. But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged the pain may not come right away. What happens at 11:59 tomorrow?
JAY CARNEY: Look, you know, not all of them will be felt immediately. They don't all happen on Saturday. It's a gradual process. But the cumulative impact of sequester, you know, will be significant to our economy and particularly so to the individuals affected.
KARL: Nobody has high hopes for today's meeting. Even if they were to suddenly come up with an agreement, of course, the House and the Senate are gone for the weekend. So, there would be nobody around to actually pass it. Robin?