Rush Limbaugh: Why is he 'ashamed' of US?

Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show Thursday, bemoaned how the political parties and media are portraying the impact of the automatic spending cuts that are set to take effect March 1.

Ron Edmonds/AP/File
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh talks with guests in the East Room of the White House in January 2009.

Rush Limbaugh on his radio show Thursday said that for the first time in his life, he is “ashamed” of his country. Why is Rushbo using such harsh language about the United States?

Because the leadership of both political parties and the media are trying to sell the US on an over-the-top, untrue story about the allegedly dire effects of the coming “sequester,” that’s why. At least we think that’s Mr. Limbaugh’s story.

“Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my country. To be watching all of this, to be treated like this, to have our common sense and intelligence insulted the way it’s being insulted? It just makes me ashamed,” said Limbaugh, according to a segment transcript posted on his website.

True, in recent days, the media have been full of stories from administration officials warning of the effects from the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, which is set to take effect March 1.

President Obama has talked about everything from effects on military readiness to delays at airports and closed sections of national parks. And GOP leaders have walked the thin line of insisting that big cuts in government spending remain necessary but sequestration would still be a bad thing.

“There is nothing wrong with cutting spending that much – we should be cutting even more – but the sequester is an ugly and dangerous way to do it,” wrote House Speaker John Boehner in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this week.

Thus Limbaugh’s line: Watch out! The professional big-government class and its defenders are just scaring you so that Washington can keep spending more and more.

“Here they come, sucking us in, roping us in. Panic here, fear there: Crisis, destruction, no meat inspection, no cops, no teachers, no firefighters, no air-traffic control. I’m sorry, my days of getting roped into all this are over,” Rush said Thursday.

OK, notice anything in that quote? Such as “no cops”? Yes, Limbaugh has set up an exaggerated straw man to build an outrage, and he can thump it with a rhetorical bat until it breaks apart in bits. Or something like that.

That doesn’t mean he’s without points here. Notice the reference earlier to $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts. That’s how much the cuts would amount to if they’re allowed to continue for a decade. Cuts the first year would be about $85 billion, according to Representative Boehner.

But Limbaugh also said this: “Do you really think 800,000 people are gonna lose their jobs in the Pentagon because we cut $22 billion? Do you really think air-traffic control’s gonna shut down? Do you really think there aren’t gonna be any meat inspectors? Do you really think that all of these horror stories are going to happen? I don’t.”

He’s right the horror stories won’t happen, because nobody has said 800,000 Pentagon workers will lose their jobs. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said he’ll have to furlough that many Defense Department civilians if sequestration occurs, meaning that they will only be paid for working four days a week instead of five. So they’ll get a 20 percent reduction in pay, which isn’t fun. But it’s better than getting laid off.

Air-traffic control won’t shut. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has warned that travelers may face 90-minute delays at airports because of air-traffic restrictions. Meat inspectors will stay on the job, and so forth.

Yes, we know Limbaugh talks this way all the time, for calculated effect. He’s using it as a tool to try to make a larger point. Like many conservatives, he considers the federal government per se a huge, unproductive drag on the economy. But you’d be surprised how many people believe pretty much every word he says.

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