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.”
But spread over 10 years, this $1 trillion spending reduction is not a budget “cut” at all, merely a reduction in the rate of spending increases. Federal spending, even with the sequester, is projected to increase from $3.6 trillion this year to $6 trillion by 2023.
And consider just how paltry an $85 billion cut is in the context of a $3.6 trillion budget. It’s just 2.4 percent. That’s the equivalent of a family that earns $100,000 a year trying to figure out how to get by on $97,600. Sure, it’s a bit of a pinch but it’s not that big of a deal. Real families in the real world make such financial decisions all the time — without the level of weeping and wailing that’s coming from Washington.
Obama says he needs more tax revenue to ease the pain and those nasty Republicans won’t give him what he wants. They shouldn’t. The president got his revenue increases in the tax deal that took effect at the start of the year — $150 billion in income, payroll and Obamacare tax increases. That’s enough.
Obama has always said deficit reduction requires a “balanced approach.” We agree. American taxpayers already are providing the increased revenue. Now it’s time for the spending reductions.
It’s time for Washington’s political leaders to grow up and take their medicine.