"Woe is me" is the cry of every bureaucrat in official Washington, suffering under the heavy hand of budgetary belt-tightening that goes by the name of sequestration. But there's actually no sign of cutbacks in the job market in Washington, D.C. The business of government is booming.
The Congressional Budget Office numbers don't lie: The Obama administration and Congress haven't cut even one dime of spending. In fact, overall outlays for the current fiscal year are $18 billion higher than last year.
The government is not just spending more; it's confiscating more. American taxpayers have been shaken down for an extra $205 billion so far, the result of the 2 percentage point increase in the payroll tax, increases in the income tax, and an extra $24 billion in corporate taxes. The net result is a bit of relief for Beijing, which won't have to lend as much to Uncle Sam this year as the deficit slims down modestly.
The more serious effect of sequestration was an actual, honest-to-goodness cut in military spending of about $28 billion, or 6 percent. This wasn't a first step toward a balanced budget, but a down payment on the $84 billion spending blowout on the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid entitlements.
That's not the message we've been hearing from Capitol Hill or the from the White House. The predictions of budgetary restraint were so persuasive that Stephen Fuller of George Mason University predicted that sequestration would devastate the Washington region. Taking Congress at its word, Mr. Fuller visualized the loss of 154,000 jobs in Virginia, 84,000 in Maryland, 92,500 in the District of Columbia.
Instead, Virginia gained 48,200 jobs between May 2012 and May 2013, and the unemployment rate dropped from 5.9 percent to 5.3 percent. Maryland, with its higher taxes and oppressive regulatory burden, gained 35,600 jobs that nudged the unemployment rate down a tenth of percent to 6.7 percent. The District added 3,500 positions, and the unemployment rate fell from 9.1 percent to 8.5 percent.
Those figures are primarily driven by government. Half of the 4,600 jobs Maryland has added since April are federal jobs. The Department of Labor finds more Virginians and Marylanders employed by the government than in May 2012. By any measure, government continues to grow larger and more burdensome, not smaller and more efficient.
A prosperous Washington is not the same as a prosperous America. The federal Leviathan's appetite continues to gobble up the resources that private business and industry could be using to create actual economic growth. Until that changes, America will continue to struggle with stagnant wages, high unemployment and mediocre prospects for the future.
The first order of business for Congress should be restraint for the runaway entitlement system that is bankrupting the nation. It's an old refrain, but a necessary one. Real austerity, instead of faux austerity, would deliver a smaller government to intervene less in the economy — and in our lives.
The Washington Times
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