Questions For Opponents Of The Sequester
Reason’s Nick Gillespie has a few questions for the people who want to rollback the impending sequestration cuts:
1. Under what sort of math do you figure that cutting $44 billion or $85 billion from a total tab of $3.6 trillion is anything more than a rounding error? Half of the cuts are slated for defense spending, which has grown massively over the past decade-plus. Do you really think that the military can’t cope?
2. Do you really believe that the sequester cuts will tank a $16 trillion economy? And if so, what’s the multiplier on that? GDP is counted in such a way that most government spending automatically gets counted as increasing the amount of economic activity (the same doesn’t hold for private spending, where different conditions hold). Do you at least agree in theory that government spending has been cut in the past without ruining the economy (and if you don’t, why not)?
3. When will conditions be right to actually cut spending? There’s a raft of anti-sequester people – such as Barack Obama – who pay lip service to the idea that government spending (especially government deficit spending) needs to stop or be reduced at some point in the future. But like St. Augustine in his partying period, they don’t want to get straight just yet. So when might that be? If we can’t afford to cut a tiny fraction of current spending now – after a year-plus of knowing this was coming and a major punting on the original deadline – when might we?
President Obama and others have said that the sequester was put in place in August 2011 with the intention, or at least the hope, that it would never actually go into effect. Instead, the across the board nature of the cuts was supposed to have scared Congress into acting. But that failed. The so-called Supercommitte worked well into November 2011 and didn’t accomplish anything, and there was no serious work toward a replacement package of cuts for the sequester in 2012. Indeed, when the deadline for the cuts inched closer just two months ago, Congress kicked the can down the road two months. Now, here were are at the end of that two month period and, again, no serious work has been done and it looks like the we’ll hit March 1st and the cuts will go into effect.
There are some pundits who seem to think that Congress will end up fixing the sequester later in March when they have to make a deal to fund the government for the rest of the Fiscal Year. Perhaps that’s true, but I somehow tend to doubt it, and it’s unclear that any new deal would be any better than the sequester. Unless the opponents of the sequester can answer those three questions above, I have to wonder why we need to get rid of it.