February 21, 2013

In their sequester scare tactics, the president, Democratic lawmakers and the liberal media that enables them have shown just how devoted they are to scare-mongering. Any government official or journalist who says that the sequester will induce death, destruction, and mayhem — the president has in fact told us all will occur — is either terribly confused or being disingenuous. Maybe both.


Speaker of the House John Boehner (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) reminds us that the reduction in domestic spending still leaves domestic spending at about 10 percent ahead of where it was when President Obama took office. He explains how that very modest reduction is conflated into armageddon:

So we’ll call this the Washington Monument effect. It’s kind of like when your local school board is told that they can’t get a tax increase, so they say well, the first thing we’re going to cut is the band and the football team. The Washington Monument, the first thing that’s going to get shut down if the government has to live with less money. We see that as kind of the political game that the President is playing here. Let’s never forget to remind people, though, that the President is the one who insisted on the sequester in the first place. The President is the one who designed the sequester as it’s currently designed. And the President is the one who has yet to put a plan on the table to actually replace the sequester. And it is the House Republicans who twice passed legislation replacing the sequester with other cuts. So I think it’s important to know this history when you’re listening to all this rhetoric that’s coming, these protestations about cutting spending. We would like to cut spending in a smarter way than sequester does. We’ve proposed specifically how we will do this. On March 1st. . . [we] will probably give these government agencies a scalpel and discretion on how to cut spending so that they can cut lower priority spending and not higher priority spending, and enable to make sure that sequester doesn’t actually damage certain priorities.

And let’s not forget that “cuts” and “reduction” have a different meaning inside the Beltway, as Rich Lowry explains:

Over the next 10 years, the sequester amounts to a $1.16 trillion cut, or roughly 3 cents on every federal dollar. If we can’t squeeze a couple of pennies out of every dollar, we might as well begin our great national bankruptcy proceedings right now.

 

This year we are supposed to cut $85 billion from a $3.5 trillion budget. And it won’t even be that much. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government won’t be able to cut the full $85 billion. It will manage to cut only about half that in 2013.

 

As Yuval Levin of the journal National Affairs points out, even with the sequester, the federal government will spend a little more in 2013 than in 2012, $3.553 compared to $3.538 trillion. Welcome to the Age of Austerity.

 

Even with the sequester, nondefense discretionary spending will still be up almost 10 percent since 2008. Even with the sequester, federal spending is projected to be a robust 22.8 percent of gross domestic product in 2023. Even with the sequester, the debt will hit 100 percent of GDP just two years later than it would otherwise, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Given how hysterical the president and the media choir have been, you realize how entirely unwilling they are to address — that is actually eliminate a chunk of – the $16 trillion in debt we have. Even the most minimal reductions bring howls of distress. The president  wants “balance” in budgeting, but so far the real cuts have been in defense ($473 billion over ten years). And the “cuts” the president points to include gimmicks like not paying for wars we are done fighting. Meanwhile, the tax hikes (elimination of the payroll tax break, $600 billion in expiration of part of the Bush tax cuts) are all too real.

The president’s mantra that the rich should pay a “little more” makes you wonder what a “little more” means. The top 10 percent of tax payers pay about 70 percent of the taxes. Should that go to 80 percent?  90 percent? Quite aside from the impact it would have on economic growth, investment and employment perpetually raising taxes on the rich doesn’t get you very far. The president wanted $1.6 trillion in new taxes in the fiscal cliff deal. But he will add trillions more than that by spending with abandon. That is why the debt is soaring and will continue to soar under this president: He won’t stop spending.

And this is why Republicans are insisting we go forward with the sequester and adjust as needed later. This is the only mechanism they have to direct the focus on spending, which the president refuses to address seriously. If you have any doubt, go back to his laundry list in the State of the Union. Debt, what debt?

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.