Given their recent talking points, one would think House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama believe sequestration recently emerged out of thin air in an inexplicable fashion. What may not be evident in the context of current discussions is the fact that they both agreed to it via their support of the Budget Control Act (BCA), which was initially laid out in September of 2011 as a means to acquire sufficient support for raising the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion. In fact, the sequestration component originally came directly from The White House.
Naturally, the debt ceiling was raised immediately when the BCA was passed. But as could have been easily predicted, a year and a half later, we have both Republican and Democratic party leaders trying to stop the automatic slight reductions in the rate of growth in several areas of the budget, with a particular emphasis on Pentagon spending. These minor reductions are set to occur on March 1st, hence renewed interest in sequestration.
Now, not only are Boehner and Obama commenting on how they believe sequestration is a bad idea, albeit for slightly different reasons, they’re both erroneously referring to it as a spending cut. As Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute aptly put it: “If we have the sequester, this ‘horrible, draconian’ process, government spending 10 years from now will be $2 trillion higher instead of $2.1 trillion higher. All we’re doing is shaving the rate of growth.” Sadly, you would never know the simple truth about Washington’s shady accounting tactics listening to both party’s leaders. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published February 20th, John Boehner made several inconsistent statements:
“A week from now, a dramatic new federal policy is set to go into effect that threatens U.S. national security, thousands of jobs and more …. The sequester is a wave of deep spending cuts scheduled to hit on March 1. Unless Congress acts, $85 billion in across-the-board cuts will occur this year, with another $1.1 trillion coming over the next decade. There is nothing wrong with cutting spending that much—we should be cutting even more—but the sequester is an ugly and dangerous way to do it. …. Should the sequester take effect, America’s military budget would be slashed nearly half a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Border security, law enforcement, aviation safety and many other programs would all have diminished resources ….. The president’s sequester is the wrong way to reduce the deficit, but it is here to stay until Washington Democrats get serious about cutting spending. The government simply cannot keep delaying the inevitable and spending money it doesn’t have.”
These are dishonest arguments for two key reasons. First, as must be reinforced at every turn, reductions in the rate of growth are not spending cuts – and they’re certainly far from ‘deep.’ It matters very little if you slightly reduce the rate at which you plan to deficit spend in the future when you have an exponentially growing national debt of $16.5 trillion. Second, Boehner’s contentions reek of hypocrisy when you consider that in other areas, Republicans tend to concede that government spending hinders rather than helps job creation and growth. It’s one thing to advocate that military spending should be the federal government’s number one priority. But when a politician acts as if the laws of economics as understood in other areas cease to exist in relation to their sacred cow of Pentagon spending, it becomes difficult to take them seriously. (This phenomenon amidst Republicans is what Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) has accurately termed Military Keynesianism).
Similarly, President Barack Obama is making the rounds, echoing the sentiment that if sequestration goes through (despite it originally being his proposal, that he has publicly defended), occurrences such as emergency personnel being incapable of response, devastating job loss, and dire economic pandemonium will wreak havoc on the nation. This type of rhetoric represents the height of disingenuous political fear mongering. It’s especially absurd considering that government will take in a record $2.7 trillion in revenue this year, and continue to deficit spend at similar levels. But, apparently a tiny decrease in the rate of spending growth will lead to a state of chaos? Is this really the narrative Americans are supposed to accept as rational? Just look at this graph. Can anybody with honest intentions think this is actually cause for alarm?
This political theater amounts to nothing more than abject dishonesty in the face of consequences wrought by the very leaders now flippantly trying to avoid what they already agreed to. Increasing spending by $2 trillion over ten years as opposed to $2.1 trillion over ten years will not lead to the destruction of the American economy. But $120 trillion in unfunded liabilities and a national debt that’s projected to reach a level by 2022 that economists agree will trigger decline, will certainly have a negative impact.
Please join us in injecting honesty into the debate by drawing attention to the fact that slight reductions in the rate of spending growth aren’t spending cuts. And encourage your Congressman and Senators to get serious and “Reject the Debt” NOW.