Two years ago, a humor website called The Washington Fancy presented the headline “Obama Cancels July 4th Because of Budget Cuts.” The fake article in the middle of debt-ceiling battles insisted “President Obama sees the cancellation of the holiday as due punishment for Congress’s recent behavior.”
It continued: “Canceling the July 4th holiday will save states and cities billions of dollars in money that would have normally been spent on Chinese fireworks and large brass bands.”
It’s not funny anymore. Now, with what AP falsely calls the “congressionally mandated” sequester cuts, military bases have done just that. They have cancelled Fourth of July events.
Let’s look at the timeline of some news accounts. Remember that these “massive” cuts total four day’s funding of the federal government. You decide if these cuts were necessary or dramatic, a la White House tour cancellations, designated to foster public opinion against them:
■ March 15: Ongoing federal budget cuts prompted Naval Station Great Lakes in Chicago’s suburban Lake County to cancel this year’s Independence Day celebration.
■ March 21: The Air Force Academy’s annual Independence Day celebration in Colorado Springs has been canceled due to budgetary concerns from sequestration, Academy officials announced. Sequestration has forced the Academy to cut back on many activities it would normally support.
■ April 11: Fort Bragg announced that its Fourth of July celebration will be canceled because of budget cuts. Post officials said they cannot afford the $120,000 in overtime pay associated with the event, which has regularly drawn more than 50,000 people since it started more than 30 years ago.
■ April 16: Naval Station Everett (in Washington state) has canceled Independence Day celebrations at the base. Over the years, the Navy has offered the public a chance to visit the base and tour a ship as a part of July 4th festivities. The decision is separate from the Navy’s announcement that it will cancel Fleet Week ship visits and Seafair performances by the Blue Angels.
■ May 6: Federal budget cuts are forcing Pearl Harbor to cancel its July 4 fireworks and the Marine Corps to cancel its annual Bayfest event at Kaneohe Bay.
■ May 7: Camp Lejeune will not be having its July 4th fireworks display because of sequestration, base officials announced.
■ May 14: Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina is canceling its annual Independence Day celebration because of automatic federal budget cuts. Base officials say the cuts won’t leave officials with enough money to put on the “Jammin’ July Fourth” event at a Sumter park.
■ May 21: New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst has canceled its annual July Fourth celebration due to furloughs caused by congressionally mandated automatic budget cuts.
■ May 31: Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island has canceled its annual 4th of July celebration, citing the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration.
■ June 6: Fort Hood officials confirmed this year’s on-post Fourth of July celebration will be significantly smaller, because of budget cuts to the military.
■ June 13: The annual Fourth of July celebration and fireworks show at Fort Jackson will go on this year despite federal budget cuts — just with a little less sizzle. Missing from this year’s festivities will be the popular “Torchlight Tattoo” — a cannon salute to the U.S. states and territories.
■ June 18: A U.S. Navy band has been forced to pull out of the “Red, White & Boom” celebrations in Rock Island, Illinois because of government spending cutbacks known as sequestration.
One can surely say that with furloughs of military personnel, canceling the fireworks or Navy bands might seem like the least painful budget choice. But wait a minute. How many defense insiders in Washington continue to proceed in comfort without limitation while the families of our fighting men and women at our military installations can’t have Fourth of July fireworks?
Don’t forget that The Washington Post recently reported that the Obamas’ trip to Africa in the week just before July 4 could cost what they called a “kingly sum,” anywhere from $60 million to $100 million.
“Military cargo planes will airlift in 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines and three trucks loaded with sheets of bulletproof glass to cover the windows of the hotels where the first family will stay,” the Post reported. “Fighter jets will fly in shifts, giving 24-hour coverage over the president’s airspace, so they can intervene quickly if an errant plane gets too close.”
Those funds would have covered every federal Fourth of July event nationwide with plenty left over for a president’s vacation.