SEQUESTER: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
What would happen if we shut the entire federal government down for 6 days? Nothing would happen (with a wee bit of prudent planning). A 6 day shut down is the equivalent of cutting the sequester amount of $54 billion from $3.8 trillion in federal spending this year. In short, reality and governance have become antagonistic concepts in America.
That $54 billion is a paltry sum, given the enormity of federal spending. Even when compared to President Obama’s recent tax increase (of $618 billion), $54 billion pales by comparison. In short, people in Washington are hyperventilating over a reduction in federal spending of only 2.4%, a trim not even a cut by any reasonable estimation. Moreover, the overall budget will continue to rise, because the sequestration only reduces the rate of increase by 2.4%. It is not a true cut, but only a very modest reduction in increase.
By contrast with the modest 2.4% reduction in federal spending imposed by sequestration, the typical American family has endured an actual loss of household income when adjusted for inflation of over 10% since the start of the Obama Administration. We do not hear comparable shrill cries from them about that painful reduction.
If neither the President nor congressional leaders can accept such a modest reduction in federal spending, how will they ever come to grips with actually cutting the budget by the amounts needed to balance it? The present leadership will not. President Obama and the majority leaders in the House and Senate refuse to exercise governance. The Democrats anticipate that the public will blame Republicans for the forced cuts and will vote for Democrats so long as that party is willing to sacrifice the nation to preserve all federal entitlements. The Republican leadership has failed to present and campaign for a salvation plan of their own, one that would not only reduce spending to survivable levels but would also liberate the private sector to grow the economy in ways essential for the nation to overcome this persistent recession. They have remained timid since the 2012 presidential election.
To be sure, sequestration falls disproportionately on the military. 50% of the $54 billion will be cut from national security programs; 35% from non-defense discretionary spending; and 15% from mandatory spending. While disproportionate, imposing a $27 billion cut on a defense budget of $613 billion at a time when we are reducing troop commitments in the theater of war is certainly survivable with intelligent reductions in force and elimination of wasteful programs. Those cuts need not reduce the strength of the American military with intelligent planning. The choice of what to cut is ultimately the President’s, and we know he will choose cuts for political advantage, likely to induce fear in the public for reductions of any kind.
The sequestration does nothing to reduce what now represents 62% of the budget (and, 100% by 2050), spending on entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Sequestration will not save the nation a single year from deficit spending; spending every year under the sequester will be greater than the year before. Nothing is being done to reduce American dependency on entitlements.
The failure of the President to lead is an unforgivable dereliction of duty for any chief executive seated atop a government on the brink of fiscal ruin. Rather than convene serious talks with House and Senate Republicans to bring about the kind of significant cuts in spending and the entitlement reform needed to save the nation, Obama continues to campaign rather than govern, revealing his interest in personal popularity to exceed his commitment to save the nation from ruin. For those familiar with the President’s history, that wayward course comes as no surprise.
But where are the House and Senate Republican leaders? Rather than call the President to task AND campaign across the nation for the adoption of a specific plan to cut discretionary spending and reform entitlements in ways that would save the nation from financial ruin, the Republican leadership operates as if in a state of paralysis, apparently afraid to fight for the cuts that must be made to save the nation. They know what is required, but they fear popular reaction to any call for entitlement reform. That lack of courage distinguishes them from great Americans who have always been willing to sacrifice themselves to save the nation. They are therefore entitled to a portion of the blame. The lack of action to save the nation by the Republican leadership permits the President to pin blame on them despite the fact that, in truth, he is more blameworthy than they because unlike them he operates as a committee of one. He need only declare the plan and campaign for it. Republicans must agree among themselves, something that has become more difficult because of the split in ideology dividing the old Republicans who share responsibility with Democrats for gross increases in federal spending and the Tea Party Republicans who are dead serious about cutting the budget and reforming entitlements.
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In the end, the sequester is much ado about nothing--far too small to justify the extraordinary, near death throes reaction coming from Capitol Hill and the departments and agencies. They behave like gluttons contemplating a modest reduction in a single day’s meal. For the glutton the prospect of eliminating one dessert from the menu for one day is regarded as a deeply painful enterprise, but the loss of that dessert will have no deleterious effect whatsoever. It will not materially alter the glutton’s habits or reduce the overall strain on the cook who labors to satisfy the glutton’s demands.
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