What You Need to Know About the Sequester
Cold Hard Fact:
If the Sequester goes through, not a single program or department in the Federal Government will have its funding cut.
This is true. Every affected department will spend more money this year than it did last year, and more money next year than it will this year. The “cut” is only a cut in the projected rate of increase in spending.
Our government employs baseline budgeting, which assumes an automatic increase in spending every year, based on projected growth of the GDP and inflation. Any increase in spending less than the assumed automatic increase is considered a “cut”.
Many of our elected officials and the bureaucrats they have appointed are making wild and outrageous claims about the dire consequences of the dread Sequester. The elderly and the children will starve. The sick will be untreated. Our borders will be left undefended. National parks and forests will be closed to the public. A shortage of TSA agents will increase wait times by many hours on all flights, while many other flights are cancelled outright due to closed runways and Air Traffic Controller losses. We’ll lose teachers, police and firefighters and our children will be left illiterate, our streets in chaos and our homes and businesses in flames. Those of us who aren’t starving will be eating diseased meats and rotten produce because we’ll have no one to inspect food. Prosecutors will have to drop cases and release dangerous criminals. Our military will rendered sorely deficient in manpower and technology, and we’ll become vulnerable on all sides from innumerable hostile threats. Some of these apocalyptic consequences are already occurring; hundred of illegal immigrants have been released from jail because the Sequester will leave us unable to pay for their cells, and an aircraft carrier has had its deployment to the Persian Gulf cancelled. All this because the Sequester threatens the Draconian step of decreasing the planned increase in future government spending by around 2%. That is beyond ridiculous. These threats are absurd now.
At some point, the threats and warnings about the dire consequences begin to speak more to the administrative and managerial ineptitude of our “leaders” than it does about any budget issues. What business in America, large or small, would be so utterly incapable of even contemplating spending 18% more money next year instead of the 20% they planned on? They would make a minor adjustment and move on. The fact that our government officials are throwing such a tantrum over even being forced to think about increasing their spending by slightly less than they intended to, tells me that they are not up to the jobs we have given them.
The tactic being employed is a classic one used by bureaucrats and department heads throughout the private and public sectors. When a budget cut is threatened for your department or program, you immediately put your most vital and important project on the chopping block. It’s not even an underhanded and unwritten tactic amongst bureaucrats – it is taught in political science textbooks.
This is tactic is known as the “Washington Monument Syndrome.” When the National Park Service is threatened with a cut in its budget of a few cents, the director would claim the need to close down the Washington Monument; he doesn’t threaten to cut cupcakes from the department cafeteria or cancel the second band hired to perform at the office President’s Day party. But our officials today are taking this tactic far and beyond.
The Right and the Left are using the tactic shamefully, and telling us that they are incapable of protecting us and serving us without spending as much more money every consecutive year as they see fit. And approximately 2% less the increase they have in mind is going to ruin the nation. The Neo-cons and Republican warhawks make these claims about proposed Defense Department cuts leaving our country vulnerable, and the Democrats make the same claims about everything else. It is ridiculous to think that we need to spend more on defense this year and next to stave off calamity when we are already spending so much more than we need to. The top 15 nations in the world, ranked by total defense spending, see the United States unsurprisingly at the top of the list. But add the next 14 countries on the list together, and we still spend more than they do combined, and more than 10 times the second highest spender. President Obama, when he took office, promised his initial defense cuts were aimed at developing a leaner more flexible military, but now our defense department is so inflexible that a minor decrease in the rate of increase in spending could bring about our nation’s downfall.
I’ll illustrate with hypothetical but analogous figures the dire consequences in terms of lost jobs. A given department is planning to hire 100 new workers next year, and if the Sequester goes through they will have to hire only 98 new workers. Those 2 workers not hired are today being counted as lost jobs, and added together with all the other “lost jobs” across other programs and departments, allowing officials to claim that thousands of people will not have employment. Some departments are counting their losses from furlough days, where various government employees may have to work a 4 day week instead of a 5 day week. There was once a time long ago when our government was run by people who had “real” jobs on the side, and only came together to do the public’s business when there was business that needed doing. Now we have impossibly massive bureaucracies who spend their time writing laws and regulations to keep themselves relevant and employed full time.
There are a number of reports out right now identifying literally billions of dollars in government waste, redundancies and duplicate programs. All of this can be addressed before the dire cuts which being threatened need to take affect. There are countless – and I mean countless – programs throughout the government which cost millions and billions of dollars and are laughably unessential. I could easily quadruple the length of this post listing wasteful programs; for example, our military spend millions to study fish behavior and learn about possible diplomatic applications and then saying the tours of soldiers will need to be extended because of the Sequester.
for examples of billions in waste see http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public//index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=b7b23f66-2d60-4d5a-8bc5-8522c7e1a40e
President Obama seems unwilling to accept any deal from Republicans which does not allow for tax increases. The Republicans say they have already given tax increases, and the deal needs to focus on “cuts”. The entire dialogue is deceptive because what both parties refer to as cuts are merely smaller increases in spending than planned. Republicans continue to gloatingly point out that the Sequester was the President’s idea. It was his idea, but it was an idea proposed as a bluff to force a different outcome.
I support the Republicans taking a stand and refusing to approve more tax increases, but even if the Sequester is allowed to take effect the Liberty cause will be hurt. The American people will be left with the impression that a major blow was struck to our national deficit, when the reality is that we’ll still be spending more next year than we are this year. People will think we have turned a corner and are moving towards a balanced budget.
In truth we are driving towards the edge of a cliff at 100 mph. The most drastic painful step we can even force ourselves to consider (the Sequester) is barely lifting our foot on the accelerator to slow to 95 mph. We are still speeding towards disaster. The debate today is not even including options like turning the steering wheel or moving our foot to the brake.
Slowing the rate of growth in government spending is not even remotely close to being a solution. Spending more money every year but not as much more as you’d like is not drastic and Draconian.
Spending the same amount of money for two years in a row is not even remotely close to a solution, yet is too ridiculous an option to even reach the floor of either House of Congress. Actually reducing the amount of spending – which means spending less money in the future than the present – is the only solution, but it is a line trillions of dollars away in the opposite direction from what is being discussed right now in Washington D.C..