What if you were given an assignment to cut $1.2 trillion from the budget deficit in a politically favorable manner? And if you fail, another set of budget cuts that accomplish the same thing but are less deliberately-designed, say, like comparing a scalpel to an amputation, will take effect and possibly tip the country back into another recession to boot. But this other set of cuts, called a sequester, is just meant as motivation, and is so messed up that nobody would possibly allow it to happen if you fail. So, you know, let it motivate you, but don't actually be worried about it, capiche? It'll motivate you so much that you'll succeed and the stupid alternative's existence is entirely moot, you'll see.
Wouldn't it be awesome if this was how we faced all our problems? Can't come up with a good solution? Don't worry, there's a stupid alternative, which we'll make a requirement should you fail.
Hey, urban public school, we need you to improve your graduation rates. If you don't, we'll just force all the dumb kids to drop out.
Hey, police, we need you to decrease the homicide rate. If you don't, just rule any suspicious death a suicide.
Hey, we've got a lot of foreclosed houses sitting unoccupied and want to lower that number. Let's figure out how to get more people occupying these homes; or barring that, let's just burn them all down.
Man, why didn't anyone think of this sooner? Time to stop worrying and learn to love the sequester.
If it's good enough for Congress, it must be good enough for the general population. After all, can anyone think of a wiser group of people than Congress?