As predicted, the Democrats’ refusal to cut any spending other than the military only delayed the inevitable. Now, as is already taking place in Greece, France and Spain, deep cuts must take place or the government will shut down. The fiscal cliff agreement and the Budget Control Act of 2011 called for sequestration on March 1st if an agreement on how to pay down the deficit was not reached. The sequestration mandates $1.2 trillion in spending cuts across the board throughout most of the federal government over the next decade. The only way to prevent sequestration is if the Democrats and Republicans come up with a compromise this week, which could involve tax increases, agreed-upon cuts, or both.
Sequestration is nothing new, it first appeared in the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Act of 1985. Yet Obama is using it to scare people and make the Republicans look bad. Obama falsely claims the sequestration was Congress’s idea. PolitiFact.com analyzed that and other statements Obama has made about the sequestration and found them to be false or half-truths.
Obama wants to frighten Americans into believing the Republicans are about to shut down government again as happened in the 1990s. If sequestration takes place, he will claim that it could have been avoided if the Republicans had agreed to increase taxes. He is hoping that by declaring sky is falling scenarios, Congress will agree to pass tax hikes and avoid making some of the cuts. This would do nothing but postpone the problem again.
Although sequestration is described as drastic cuts, it will barely slow down the rate spending is increasing, cutting just 2.4 percent of total spending. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, “It is a terrible way to cut spending, but not to cut 2.5 percent over the total budget over a year when it is twice the size it was 10 years ago? Give me a break.” Spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security represent over 60 percent of the federal budget, yet the sequestration will not touch them. Sequestration is merely a band-aid that does not address the bigger looming financial disaster of mandatory entitlement spending. During the summer of 2011, it seemed like Obama was going to agree to increase the age for Medicare eligibility, but has has since backed away from that position, pressured by liberal Democrats in Congress.
While it is good the Democrats are finally being forced to make cuts, since they control the Senate and the presidency, they are in charge of picking what gets cut. A study from George Mason University projects a loss of 2.14 million jobs if sequestration takes effect, and almost half of those would come from small businesses. Obama can pick and choose which cuts to make in order to make the Republicans look bad. Last week, Obama spokesman Jay Carney warned that the Border Patrol would be reduced, allowing more illegal immigrants to enter the country.
With the Democrats calling the shots on sequestration, defense spending will take the biggest hit. Half of the cuts will be made to defense spending. The Department of Defense will be required to cut its budget 11 percent each year. More than $500 billion in Pentagon cuts will kick in automatically, including a $46 billion cut between March 1 and October 1. This is pretty drastic considering defense spending leveled off after Obama took office, unlike the spiraling costs of Medicare and Social Security. The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments reports that around 108,000 defense civilian employees could lose their jobs this year if sequestration takes effect. Pentagon money chief Robert Hale warns, “Two-thirds of the Army active combat brigade teams, other than those that are currently deployed, would be at below acceptable levels of readiness. It could affect their ability to deploy to a new contingency, if one occurred, or if this goes on long enough, even to Afghanistan.”
Sequestration cuts will mean fewer federal food inspections, airport delays and government worker furloughs. Some cuts would be phased in over time, and certain items including Pell Grants, food stamps and the welfare program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families will be exempt from sequestration.
Many of the programs on the chopping block do need to be trimmed. These include grants for renewable energy research, the bloated Department of Justice with its politically motivated selective prosecutions, the Internal Revenue Service, the politically correct Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), the overreaching Federal Drug Administration (FDA), a second welfare program for women and children, the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and aid to foreign countries that simply goes into the pockets of ruthless dictators. The bloated Department of Education will be cut 7.8 percent cut this year, followed by smaller cuts in the future.
The sequestration should have cut more. Pell grants – free government money for students in college – should be axed. There are vast areas of waste within the Pentagon that need to be scrutinized. The Pentagon has never undergone a full audit, and continues to delay such efforts. Many government employees are overpaid and instead of temporary furloughs their salaries should be permanently decreased to market levels. Columnist Wayne Allen Root points out that “the average government janitor is paid $600,000 more over his lifetime than a janitor working in the private sector.”
This “dire” scenario is due to repeat itself again on March 27, when the Continuing Resolution that temporarily funds the government expires. As government is repeatedly forced to shrink in size, will Americans finally realize the Republicans were right about reducing the size of government, or will they continue to elect Democrats? The Democrats and liberal media have become so skilled at spinning fiscal crises to blame Republicans that the Democrats may remain in power, putting band-aids on the problem for years to come instead of fixing it.