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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Crying Wolf

Here is Aesop's original fable of the boy who cried wolf:
A Shepherd-boy, who watched a flock of sheep near a village, brought out the villagers three or four times by crying out, "Wolf! Wolf!" and when his neighbors came to help him, laughed at them for their pains. The Wolf, however, did truly come at last. The Shepherd-boy, now really alarmed, shouted in an agony of terror: "Pray, do come and help me; the Wolf is killing the sheep"; but no one paid any heed to his cries, nor rendered any assistance. The Wolf, having no cause of fear, at his leisure lacerated or destroyed the whole flock.
One may derive a moral from the story:  if you give too many false warnings, people won't believe you when you finally give a real one.  President Obama and outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa should remember that moral.

Brian Montopoli reports at CBS News:
The Obama administration has overreached three times in the past 10 days in attempting to illustrate the negative impact of the sequester spending cuts in the short term, giving fodder to those seeking to play down the impact of the cuts.
On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters that major airports had seen lines ballooning to 150-200 percent their normal size. The Transportation Security Administration later clarified that it was not yet seeing longer-than-normal checkpoint lines, though Customs and Border Protection told CBS News there had been increased wait times at two airports due to reduced staffing.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, however, that "officials representing a dozen major airports said there were few if any unusual flight delays or lines at security or customs checkpoints." That included an official at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, which is one of the two airports that had been specifically cited by Customs and Border Protection.

On Friday, meanwhile, President Obama said that janitors at the U.S. Capitol would receive a pay cut due to the sequester cuts. Carlos Elias, the superintendent of the U.S. Capitol building and the Capitol Visitors Center, quickly emailed employees to say "This is NOT TRUE," adding that "The pay and benefits of EACH of our employees WILL NOT be impacted."

The prior Sunday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan had said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that "There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can't come back this fall." He later acknowledged that he "misspoke" after fact checkers found no evidence for the claim.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
Two days after Los Angeles voters defeated a sales tax hike that officials had said was vital to reducing the city's budget crisis, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said stronger revenues and an improving economy could cut this year's financial gap by more than half.
Villaraigosa, who endorsed the plan to take the sales tax from 9% to 9.5%, said Thursday that he now expects a brighter financial outlook to take a looming deficit from $216 million to a much lower number, possibly less than $100 million, for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The mayor's financial analysis bears a striking resemblance to comments made last month by his onetime budget advisor, former Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo. Then a candidate for City Council, Szabo said the shortfall was $100 million lower than the figure being used publicly by proponents of Proposition A.
Szabo, who opposed the sales tax hike, noted that Santana's own report said pension costs were $45 million lower than previously forecast and other revenue as much as $70 million higher. When The Times asked the mayor about Szabo's remarks a day later, Villaraigosa accused the reporter of trying to create a controversy.
Both the federal government and the City of Los Angeles face tough fiscal decisions in the years ahead.  But because the president and the mayor have cried wolf, their constituents will be less likely to heed future warnings, even if they prove to be correct.