NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

March 1, 2013

Time to take sequester medicine

The uproar over sequestration cuts in the federal budget, scheduled to hit today if the president and Congress cannot reach a deal, is a sham. It is demagoguery aimed at getting a fearful public to beg our political leaders to continue spending the nation into bankruptcy and economic ruin.

According to the overheated rhetoric coming out of Washington, cutting a mere $85 billion in spending for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year means our armed forces will crumble, our Navy will sink to the bottom of the sea, the sick will die for lack of treatment, hordes of newly homeless and destitute will wander the landscape and poor, innocent children will be condemned to a lifetime of dull stupidity for want of an education.

We exaggerate, of course — but not by much.

Before the cuts even have taken place, the overreaction has begun. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tuesday released a number of detained illegal aliens claiming its hand was forced by the looming spending cut. President Obama was in Virginia Tuesday telling shipyard workers the sequester was the equivalent of taking a meat cleaver to the budget.

“The impact of this policy won’t be felt overnight, but it will be real,” Obama told workers at Newport News Shipbuilding. “The sequester will weaken America’s economic recovery, it will weaken our military readiness, and it will weaken the services people depend on.”

This is hyperbole. And what should be of more concern to all of us is the fact that the spending reduction mandated by the sequester does not even come close to the kind of fiscal discipline needed to get the country’s finances in good order. We are saddling future generations with a nation that is dangerously saddled with debt and overspending.

In 2011 in exchange for an increase in the federal debt ceiling, President Obama proposed and Congress agreed to a plan to force more than $1 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade. The cuts would be split, roughly equally, between defense and non-defense spending — the idea being to make them equally distasteful to Republicans and Democrats. The cuts would take place automatically, unless Congress and the president could agree to a different, more palatable plan to achieve the same goal. This mandated spending reduction is “the sequester.”

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