EDITORIAL: Sequestration follies

Washington must cut a lot more than $85 billion

Question of the Day

Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

View results

Here we go again. Lawmakers are once more warning that the nation hangs on the brink of unimaginable disaster. Another cliff, you might say. Five days from now automatic budget restraint is scheduled to take effect, and nothing frightens a politician more than restraint on spending. It was put into place after President Obama refused to agree to a plan for more responsible reductions. To enhance the theatrics, this reduction goes by the intimidating name of sequestration. The only problem with sequestration is that it doesn’t restrain enough.

Mr. Obama wants us to believe otherwise and tries to strike terror among the ordinary and the easily frightened. “Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country,” the president prophesied in a scary speech last week. “Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare for their kids.” It’s a dire litany, a tale of a great boogeyman lurking to duel with hairy creatures of the night. But the actual dollar figures involved are trivial. When all is said and done, at the end of the day, in the great by and by — choose your cliche — there will be no actual cuts.

The sequestration is supposed to trim $85 billion in spending in a budget that proposes to spend $3.8 trillion. That would be a 2.2 percent cut, except it’s not the end of the story. In the first few months of the current fiscal year, federal spending has already increased $42 billion. So by year’s end, 2013 spending is likely to exceed 2012’s, even after the sequestration. That’s exactly what has happened year-after-year since Mr. Obama first moved into the Oval Office. Annual spending is almost $1 trillion higher than it was in the most profligate year of his predecessor.

Nonetheless, Republicans allow Mr. Obama to get away with such stretchers as: “Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce our deficits by more than $2.5 trillion.” Washington insiders refer to reductions in planned spending as “cuts” or “reductions” when they’re actually increases. It’s a deception meant to give the illusion of progress when there isn’t any, and the fiscal situation grows ever more dire. We must always watch their language.

Republican leaders prefer to campaign on illusory accomplishments than to tell the truth: There are no cuts on the table. Government growth will continue. The Congressional Budget Office puts the issue into perspective. The government will spend $47.2 trillion over the next decade. Out of this, the full $1.2 trillion sequestration, assuming it actually happens, represents a 2.5 percent reduction. What that means is, instead of borrowing $7 trillion from future generations, as previously planned, politicians will only add $5.8 trillion to the national debt. That’s what passes for responsibility in Washington.

Mr. Obama skewed the sequestration so the military takes a $42.7 billion hit in one year, which will produce an honest-to-goodness cut in national defense. But the sky will hardly fall on the rest of the government. In fact, any reduction in the number of blue-gloved Transportation Security Administration agents groping children at the airport, or Energy Department agents clearing real light bulbs off store shelves, will make America a stronger nation.

Republicans make a costly mistake allowing an expansion in the size and scope of government to be described as a “dramatic cut.” Spending must drop by $7 trillion to bring the books back into balance. America should settle for no less than it deserves.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks
You Might Also Like
  • Maureen McDonnell looks on as her husband, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, made a statement on Tuesday after the couple was indicted on corruption charges. (associated press)

    PRUDEN: Where have the big-time grifters gone?

  • This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014,  shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gesturing as he answers a question during a news conference  at the Statehouse in Trenton.  Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme orchestrated by key aides. The early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will make a case Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014, that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically, according to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    BRUCE: Bombastic arrogance or humble determination? Chris Christie’s choice

  • ** FILE ** Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

    PRUDEN: The question to haunt the West

  • Get Breaking Alerts