Libertarian Hawk


Top Ten Sequester Lies

February 27, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

02-25_Ax_Editorial_cartoon_Sequester_is_but_an_insect_t6402The budget sequester, which President Obama opposed when it was passed in 2011, will hurt the economy, arbitrarily cut $85 billion in spending, and put hundreds of thousands of essential federal employees out of work; yet Republicans refuse to compromise to avert the crisis.

There’s nine lies right there, all in one sentence.  Let’s break them down for the “low-information voter”:

1. Obama opposed the sequester.  Obama swore in the fall of 2011 to veto any attempts to repeal the sequester his party had incorporated into the Budget Control Act as part of the debt ceiling compromise.  Democrats bet that in the sequester game of chicken, Republicans would flinch because they wouldn’t be able to stomach proposed defense cuts.  Democrats bet wrong.  Now they’re trying to rewrite history to make it look as though they didn’t underestimate determined Republicans.

2. The sequester scheduled to take place on March 1 will hurt the economy.  Minor spending cuts don’t hurt the economy; they show investors and employers we’re taking steps to resolve our debt crisis and avoid credit downgrades.  They also pave the way for federal tax cuts, which—from JFK to Reagan to Clinton to Bush—have stimulated the economy and promoted growth.

3. The sequester will put hundreds of thousands of federal employees out of work.  Given how these things usually unfold, the odds are that whatever time these workers spend off the job they will most likely be compensated for via the furlough appeals process or unemployment benefits.

4. If the sequester takes place, fires won’t be put out, crime won’t be stopped, air traffic will halt, meat will rot, etc.  All of the essential functions of government, and many more, will continue to be carried out under a sequester.  Most agencies under Obama have increased significantly in size since he took office; a return to roughly 2009 spending levels isn’t going to send them into a tailspin.  For comparison, look at the huge aviation disaster that didn’t happen in 1981 when President Reagan fired 10,000 air traffic controllers.

5. The cuts proposed in the sequester are capricious and arbitrary.  In 2011 the 12-member, bipartisan supercommittee hashed out the cuts that would form the sequester, half from domestic spending and half from military spending.  While neither side is happy with the balance, at least it’s clear how the division was arrived at.  But propagandists like Paul Krugman make it sound as though lawmakers started randomly targeting hapless federal employees to fire.  As George Will counters the sequester naysayers,  “[C]ritics are utopians if they are waiting for the arrival of intelligent government.  The real choice today is between bigger or smaller unintelligent government.”

6. Republicans refuse to compromise on the sequester.  No one considered the sequester an ideal solution.  However, at some point it dawned on the GOP that the sequester might be the only way to force Democrats to cut spending on anything, ever, other than the military.  Republicans are willing to take a haircut on defense if Democrats are forced to trim a whisker or two off the giant entitlement state.  How is that not compromising?  Also, Republicans did compromise with Democrats, just last month, on the fiscal cliff deal that postponed the sequester for two months, and whose $600 billion tax increase was much more consequential than the sequester.  Republicans also compromised with Democrats on the original deal to raise the debt ceiling that led to the sequester.

7. The sequester will result in large budget cuts.  The sequester cuts $85 billion, or 3% of projected $3.6 trillion federal discretionary 2013 spending—also known as a “budget” before Democrats came to power.  As The Washington Post admitted, “[S]ome White House allies worry the slow-moving sequester may fail to live up to the hype.”  Or, as healthcare lobbyist Emily Holubowich charmingly put it, “‘The good news is, the world doesn’t end March 2.  The bad news is, the world doesn’t end March 2…  The worst-case scenario for us is the sequester hits and nothing bad really happens.’”

8. The sequester will cut $85 billion out of the 2013 budget.  Actually, it will cut only $44 billion, or about half that amount.  The $85 billion figure references the cut in “spending authority,” the other half of which Congress will likely postpone indefinitely, then reverse once voters have forgotten about it.

9. The sequester will in fact cut spending.  Actually, the sequester will merely slow the baseline increase in spending.  Even with the sequester, the 2013 federal budget will exceed the 2012 budget.  The sequester will no more cut spending than shooting a bullet through shrubbery will reverse its course.

And one more:

10. Republicans can win the sequester fight.  Only if they stand up and make the above points—in clear, easy-to-digest language, with concrete examples, scathing refutations of quotes by Democratic fear-mongers, and relentless attacks on Obama for lying to Americans and treating them like children.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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