The cuts demanded by sequestration – the president’s own bargain in 2011 to win a higher debt ceiling — are not draconian and they shouldn’t affect public safety, public services or even convenience.
“President Barack Obama warned Tuesday of diminished emergency services, longer airport security lines and other problems if Congress fails to reach agreement on avoiding the harshest impacts of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts set to begin March 1,” CNN reported. “With firefighters, police officers and other emergency responders standing behind him, Obama said that ‘people will lose their jobs’ if the forced cuts are allowed to take effect.”
If they do, it will be the result of bad management decisions.
Let’s look at the cuts. They amount to $1.2 trillion over 10 years — about $85 billion for 2013. To meet that, the sequestration rules mandate a 9.4 percent cut in “non-exempt” defense funding and 8.2 percent cuts in “non-exempt” non-defense spending. Overall, the cuts would be about 5 percent of the federal budget.
What’s exempt? Pretty much everything important — pay for armed forces personnel, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ services — is exempt, so the fear-mongering at the White House must focus on the cuts faced by a few discretionary programs.
That’s simply not true — at least, it doesn’t have to be. Those programs are rife with waste, redundancy and inefficiency. The Office of Budget and Management isn’t required by the sequestration deal to make across-the-board cuts. Its accountants can go in and make more targeted, common-sense reductions.
As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday, “Surely the president won’t cut funds to first responders when just last year Washington handed out an estimated $115 billion in payments to individuals who weren’t even eligible to receive them, or at a time when 11 different government agencies are funding 90 different green energy programs.”
Waste should come first. And it’s not hard to find; the federal government has numerous offices dedicated to finding waste and fraud.
“Any effort to avert the sequester should begin with the billions of dollars in frivolous projects, government waste, and duplicative spending that have propagated our runaway debt and deficits,” Sen. John Cornyn said on Tuesday.
Look at it this way. Throughout Obama’s tenure, private businesses have had to make far more drastic cuts than the 5 percent being called for. American households have, too. And they’ve had to make smart cuts.
So why shouldn’t the federal government?