• The tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 were first proposed by then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush as he campaigned for president in 2000. At the time, the economy was enjoying rare multi-year budget surpluses and government economists were predicting surpluses well into the future. Bush told cheering audiences his tax cuts would return to taxpayers "what is rightfully yours."
Those cuts have outlived the surpluses, which vanished in Bush's first year in office. Deficits returned with a vengeance and have grown ever since, and most of them remain today, trimmed only slightly by the New Year's deal that ended Bush's tax breaks for households making over $450,000 a year.
Economists view those tax cuts as one of the biggest drains on the Treasury, and a major contributor to the spiraling government debt.
• Wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq lasted far longer and cost much more, in terms of U.S. lives and dollars, than anticipated.
• Social Security has become one of the most expensive federal programs ever. When it was created in the 1930s, the average life expectancy was about 65 years. Longer life expectancies and the coming retirements of millions of Baby Boomers have put enormous strains on Social Security, as well as Medicare and Medicaid.
And now the sequester.
"It's not hard to come up with something better, yet all efforts to do so went down the toilet for various reasons," said economist Bruce Bartlett, who held economic posts in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. "And I think people didn't realize how wedded Republicans are to not raising taxes."
Still, he added, no one really thought the cuts would happen.
Stan Collender, a former staffer on the House and Senate budget committees, said Congress is "very short-term focused. The longer-term consequences are of very little concern to people who have to run for re-election every two years," said Collender, now a partner at Quorvis Communications, a financial consulting firm.
More House districts have been redrawn in recent years with political factors in mind, and that's tended to concentrate conservatives in Republican districts and liberals in Democratic ones -- and set the terms of the debate on Capitol Hill.
"If people in your district are hell bent on cutting spending, even if it hurts the economy, and applaud your intransigence, then that's going to be your priority and your vote, even if it's not necessarily good for the country," Collender said.
The sequester now in play is actually an updated version of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act of 1985. There also was a small sequester in 1986, and a big one that had been planned for 1990. The latter was avoided only after President George H.W. Bush broke his "no new taxes" pledge to join Democrats in a deficit-reduction compromise that raised taxes.
There was a huge GOP backlash, one that many politicians believe contributed to Bush's 1992 re-election defeat to Democrat Bill Clinton.
Clearly not the consequence Bush had in mind.