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LAMBRO: Obama’s sequestration alarmism was dead wrong
‘Sky is falling’ job-loss forecast didn’t materialize
Question of the Day
President Obama’s bogus promises, predictions and claims are legendary, but perhaps you’ve forgotten his “sky is falling” forecast about the $85 billion budget sequestration.
Last February, as Congress’ automatic budget cuts began chipping away at the government’s out-of-control spending levels, Mr. Obama went hyperbolic. The spending cuts would deal a “huge blow … to our economy as a whole” and “all our economic progress could be at risk.”
In a string of speeches, the president played his fear card again. Air-traffic control operations were being put at risk. Cancer research projects would be halted. Your food safety was in jeopardy.
The White House was put on a full, scare-them-to-death alert to frighten Americans into thinking the sequestration cuts would doom economic growth and destroy the very foundations of our economy.
Alan B. Krueger, who was chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers at the time, said sequestration would slash 750,000 jobs by year’s end.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went on the Senate floor to claim, “We have learned that the sequestration has cut 1.6 million jobs.” The Washington Post’s combination fact-checker and lie-detector, Glenn Kessler, awarded Mr. Reid his highest score for dishonesty: four Pinocchios.
It turned out that Mr. Obama’s economic fear rhetoric was no more truthful than when he promised Americans, “If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it.”
The sequestration cuts didn’t hurt our economy; they helped it. Wiser voices who said the budget reductions would be a net plus for the economy were, of course, right.
As the sequestration was doing its work throughout 2013, budget watchers and economic analysts pointed out that the number of jobs being created didn’t decline; it grew. It was nowhere near the number needed to bring unemployment down to normal levels, but it did move in the opposite direction from what Mr. Obama and his fellow fear mongers were predicting.
“The economy added about 1 million new jobs over the period during which the sequester was supposed to cost 750,000 jobs (or 1.6 million, if you believed Harry Reid),” Tom Giovanetti, economic analyst at the Institute for Policy Innovation, wrote late last year.
“In fact, Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker observed that private-sector job growth has more than compensated for public-sector job losses, which means the effort that formally went toward hobbling the private sector is now being productively put to work in the private sector,” Mr. Giovanetti added.
As sequestration worked its will over the course of the past year, the trillion-dollar budget deficit fell to $650 billion. That was a result in part of the spending reductions, but also to slightly better economic growth.
By the second quarter of 2013, the economy grew at 1.7 percent, when economic forecasters were predicting slower growth in the 1 percent range. By the third quarter, the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 3.6 percent, according to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Much of that growth was a result of inventory accumulation that many forecasters said would not hold up in the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, the GDP was a far cry from Mr. Obama’s hysterical and obviously erroneous warnings that the nightly network news media swallowed hook, line and sinker.
The fact that the administration would try to make such an issue over just $85 billion in budget cuts — divided equally between defense and non-defense appropriated funding — was preposterous on its face. You don’t have to be a math genius to understand that $85 billion is a very small percentage out of a $3.5 trillion budget in a nearly $17 trillion economy.
Over the past year, there has been feedback from the small-business community and smaller-government advocates that the sequestration cuts were at least a step in the right direction.
“I believe the … sequestration helped the economy,” said small-business owner and certified public accountant Gene Marks. “It is comforting to know that the legislative branch can stand up in the face of withering criticism and dire warnings from the media and even the president to take action .”
The 2014 compromise budget approved this month and sent to Mr. Obama for his signature suggests the West Wing and Democratic leaders may have gotten the message.
The $1.1 trillion budget restores some sequester cuts to programs such as Head Start, medical research and job training. But it left many agency budgets “tens of billions of dollars lower than Obama had requested and … Democrats had sought,” The Washington Post reported.
That was seen as “a victory” for Republicans, “who have succeeded in rolling back agency appropriations to a level on a par with the final years of the George W. Bush administration,” the newspaper reported.
There are two unmistakable political messages in all of this that the Obama administration still refuses to accept.
First, Americans will support significant spending cuts when they see budget reductions leading to an improved economy and more jobs. Second, Mr. Obama no longer has any credibility on fiscal-policy issues — if he had any to begin with.
With his job-approval polls falling to 40 percent and a new Gallup poll finding that “Americans’ economic outlook has soured” in recent weeks, the GOP’s political prospects in the November midterm elections are looking better all the time.ˆ
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.
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