Sequestion: Scalpel vs. Meat Cleaver
Sequestration spending caps take effect today. There are no brutal spending cuts. None. You won’t even notice it for months.
The 2013 federal budget is still bigger than it was in 2012. Future budgets will grow each year. Reductions get imposed after spending caps exceed the bigger budgets already approved under the sequester.
The world as we know it will not crumble before our eyes by sunset.
Contrary to popular belief, sequestration takes a reasonable approach to reigning in federal spending.
The Scalpel or the Meat Cleaver
No one disputes federal spending far exceeds its revenues. Trillion dollar deficits are the new “normal”.
According to the CBO, federal spending needs to be fixed before public debt growth begins overwhelming the economy within the next decade.
Sequestration is not the fix. It is the humble beginnings of the start.
The President’s criticism of sequestration is that it takes a harsh, undirected “meat cleaver” approach to reeling in federal spending.
The politicians tell us that we need a surgeon’s skill operating with an economic scalpel on an unwieldy federal budget to prevent loss of jobs, prevent human hardship, avoid putting national security at-risk and avoid long-lasting economic damage.
President Obama asks this question:
the question right now is whether we can reduce the deficit in a way that helps the economy grow, that operates with a scalpel, not with a hatchet
– President Obama, 11/21/2011
Answer: No. Why? Two reasons:
- It was already tried and failed
- Washington politicians suffer from acute budget reduction revulsion
The so-called “super committee” of 12 Senators and Congressmen from both parties that were charged with taking a scalpel to the federal budget back in 2011 couldn’t get the job done.
That is why we have spending caps starting today.
The President originally suggested sequestration as the backup plan to the scalpel. He signed it into law August 1, 2011.
Since the super committee failure, the politicians have had a year and three months to apply the scalpel. They didn’t even try. Their greatest accomplishment was to delay sequestration until now as part of the fiscal cliff deal on New Year’s Day.
Congress and the President have proved beyond a shadow of doubt that they cannot or will not make even minor reductions in real spending. The sounds of their incessant whining about it is deafening.
The good news is that the best solution is all that is left – sequestration.
Sequestration has many smart and fair-minded advantageous:
- Removes politics and favoritism from the budget reduction process
- Allows for growth in the federal budget every year
- Allows emergency spending (like $60.4 billion for Superstorm Sandy) to grow the budget further without penalty
- Exempts mandatory spending for things like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from cuts
- Reductions become necessary only after allowed budget growth is exceeded
- Spreads discretionary reductions evenly across all federal departments
- Evenly split reductions encourages cutting waste and fraud before cutting jobs and services
After all this time, its laughable that Washington politicians suddenly fancy themselves capable of reducing a budget. They might consider recovering $115 billion in yearly over-payments first.
To politicians, cutting spending is roughly equivalent to having their fingernails ripped off with pliers in the middle of a root canal performed using a drill press.
Politicians cutting a budget is like Bozo the Clown defusing a thermonuclear bomb. If attempted, they’d sell so many political favors to big campaign donors that it would double the inflation rate and muck up everything else.
Instead of running around crying wolf, President Obama should embrace sequestration. Its the best economic idea he has ever had.