The Sequester and America’s Spending Addiction
In Iowa, milk and meat producers fear public health risks if food inspectors lose their jobs, which is now on the line as a result of the automatic spending cuts that took place on March 1.
This is just one example of the impact that the mandatory federal spending cuts, known as the sequester, will have on communities across America.
It was originally introduced in the debt ceiling compromise back in 1985 as an ultimatum for lawmakers. It initially intended to threaten Congress with automatic across-the-board spending cuts if Congress failed to agree on the federal budget by a certain date.
Not only was this avoidable, but Congress was even granted more time. The expiration date that the Budget Control Act called for landed on New Year’s day, which would have overlapped with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and payroll tax cut, resulting in what is now known as “the fiscal cliff.” In order to prevent another recession, a deal to avert the cliff was passed, delaying the sequester until March 1.
President Obama put forth a plan that meets with Republicans more than halfway and includes twice as many spending cuts as it does tax revenue from the wealthy. The President believes it should be done in a balanced way that will protect investments that help our economy grow and keep our country safe. (Click here for more details on the President’s plan.)
According to Republican leaders, the Sequester cuts are the best possible route since it represents a real spending cut by Congress. According to South Dakota’s Sen. John Thune, “Most Americans believe that they can tighten their belt and reduce spending by 2.4 percent.” No big deal, right? The problem is that 2.4 percent isn’t evenly distributed.
Republicans, on the other hand, are opposed to a “Buffet rule”-style minimum tax on income above $1 million and a repeal of tax subsidies for oil companies. Suggesting a cuts-only approach, their plan would force American children, seniors, troops, military families and the entire middle class to bear the burden of deficit reduction.
Setbacks are sometimes necessary for progress because they present opportunities that you wouldn’t have otherwise had. In this case, the spending cuts present an opportunity for American legislators to balance the vast and varied list of goals and its resources. Before both parties can readdress their priorities and design more effective methods, they have to understand the severity of their actions and inactions.
Heavily relying on federal funding, the Department of Education is expected to take a hit, and children with special needs will particularly feel it. (For more details on the President’s budget request for the Department of Education click here.) National Parks will be forced to furlough safety workers and put off summer hiring, resulting in less available camping sites and park trails. Airline flight delays are expected due to fewer flight controllers on duty. Half of the anticipated cuts will come from the Department of Defense’s budget, which will devastate the military and degrade American security. This is just a sneak peak of what’s to come for Americans. (For more details on federal cuts click here.)
In order to maintain the resources and focus necessary to meet American national security needs, U.S. national security leadership is obliged to eliminate some missions while readdressing how to pursue others in different ways. These cuts should also spark a conversation amongst American leaders about crucial national security topics, such as the future of NATO, all three legs of the nuclear triad, and the presence of U.S. troops in countries like Korea and Japan.
Hopefully America will learn from the sequester and learn from their mistakes, realize how harmful it is and take control of their addiction to spending.
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