It’s not hard to find examples of wasteful government spending. The IRS has its own television studio that costs taxpayers $4 million per year to operate. The National Science Foundation paid seniors $1.2 million to play video games for a study. Just last year, the government shelled out an estimated $115 billion in payments to ineligible individuals. Not to mention the 90 different green energy programs across 11 different federal agencies that are eating up government resources, according to the Washington Post.
Sequestration does not target any of these outrageous abuses of taxpayer dollars. Although it makes necessary spending cuts, sequestration targets nothing at all. It’s the equivalent of a family deciding to save $1000 this year by making equal cuts to not only their cable subscription but their heating and grocery bills.
Without legislative intervention, the first installment of the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts known as “sequestration” will go into effect starting on March 1. The $85 billion in spending reductions this year will grow to $1.2 trillion over the next decade and apply to all government agencies from the National Park Service to airport security to education. The sequestration process singles out military spending for extra reductions. Despite representing only one-fifth of federal spending, defense will bear a disproportionate 40 percent of the cuts, leading to real reductions in capability and real hardship to the talented civilian workers who conduct vital maintenance and modernization at places like Tinker Air Force Base. As reported in The Oklahoman, Air Force officials say that 16,000 members of Oklahoma’s Air Force civilian workforce could be furloughed, losing nearly $125 million in pay over six months.
No serious person can deny that government spending is out of control and must be reined in. However, sequestration accomplishes a necessary objective in an unnecessarily blunt manner, jeopardizing the worthwhile alongside the wasteful. There is near universal agreement in Washington that sequestration should be modified. House Republicans strongly support maintaining the full $1.2 trillion in cuts but propose redistributing the reductions in a more purposeful, targeted manner that preserves essential programs and protects the military from dangerous capability cutbacks. In fact, we passed detailed legislation in May and December 2012 to distribute the cuts more fairly across the entire budget.
Once again, President Obama has no specific proposal beyond his all-purpose, two-part plan: Blame Republicans and raise taxes. Senate Democrats, who have ignored the issue for almost two years, dutifully introduced a last-minute bill to raise taxes on high earners that is unlikely even to pass in their own chamber.
Solving the sequester by raising taxes is a non-starter for two reasons. First, we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Focusing on revenues just kicks the can down the road without addressing the real drivers of our debt. Secondly, the president just got $600 billion in new tax revenue when a portion of the Bush tax cuts expired in January. Now it’s time to tackle the other side of the equation by confronting the 60 percent of the budget consumed by entitlement spending.
For the first time in a long time, Congress is not operating on default settings that favor spenders. Under current law, sequestration is going to happen. Conservatives will work with President Obama to modify the cuts but not to prevent them.