The Washington Post's Myopic Sequester Criticism

Editorial Board Spotlights White House Tours And Ignores Harmful Cuts To Basic Public Services

The Washington Post's editorial board has adopted the right-wing fixation on the interruption of White House tours while ignoring cuts to critical services in both of its sequester-related editorials since cuts took effect on March 1. The first lauded the decrease in federal support for remote, small-town airports while the second decried the halted tours on Pennsylvania Avenue -- odd priorities for outrage given the devastating effects sequester cuts are having on basic government services like paving roads and caring for seniors, the unemployed, and schoolchildren.

In its most recent editorial, the Post described the cancellation of White House tours as “bureaucratic hostage-taking,” and opined that the media backlash against the Obama administration was “proper comeuppance”:

The popular tours have been suspended indefinitely as part of the response to the so-called sequester that went into effect March 1, mandating across-the-board spending cuts of $85 billion. The decision - coming just as Washington readies for the busy part of its tourist season, when cherry blossoms bloom and school groups on spring break descend on the nation's capital - prompted an immediate outcry.


Administration officials, The Post's David Nakamura reported, said the decision was made by the Secret Service, which estimated that ending the tours would save $74,000 in weekly overtime costs. Why overtime is needed for the self-guided tours that are plotted out with plenty of advance notice is anybody's guess. But even accepting the explanation by a Secret Service spokesman that the decision involved a broader reassignment of officers to minimize furloughs, is the $2 million that's estimated to be saved through September really worth the price of shutting Americans out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.?

The Post's criticism ignores the plethora of budget cuts to critical government services that have taken effect since March 1. While the paper's news coverage has reflected the harm these cuts have on the country's most vulnerable populations, the editorial board has turned a blind eye to them.

The Post isn't the only media outlet focusing on White House tours in the wake of sequestration. As ThinkProgress pointed out, major cable news networks like Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC have mentioned the tour cancellations 33 times as often as other effects.

Meanwhile, regional newspapers have picked up on some of these real sequester impacts overlooked by many national media outlets: cuts like reductions in military tuition assistance, decreased funding for volunteer programs like VISTA and Americorps, and slashes in healthcare spending.

Local officials from across the country are in the Post's backyard this week, lobbying Congress to pay attention to the devastation being wrought on municipal governments' ability to provide basic services like paving sidewalks, mitigating damage from natural disasters, and providing school lunches to students. 

When will the Post's editorial pages accurately reflect the effects of the sequester storm?