February 7 2013
Question of the Day: Is It Time to Learn to Love the Sequester?
President Obama has been going on about those dastardly Republicans who "talk about letting the sequester kick in as though that were an acceptable thing."
Has the president conveniently forgotten that the idea for the sequester originated in his White House? And I’m beginning to think that it might actually have been one of the rare good ideas to come from this administration.
The idea behind the sequester was that the across the board cuts that it will trigger if Republicans and Democrats can’t agree are drastic enough to bring Congress to heel. Cuts to the defense budget are designed to corral Republicans.
But do Republicans really want to go to the mat for a big defense budget at a time when, regardless of the budget, Chuck Hagel, if he becomes Secretary of Defense, will be downsizing the military anyway?
Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said that the cuts will hollow out the military. But we already have a military which, though staffed by courageous men and women, hasn’t been able to defeat Afghan tribesmen after a decade of fighting there. Clearly, it is time to rethink the U.S. military budget. I am sorry that this process may happen under Hagel, who showed himself to be ill-informed during his confirmation hearings. But it does need to happen.
We buy all sorts of expensive equipment that the military doesn’t actually use. And there are reasons to believe that the sequester could actually give the economy a much-needed shot in the arm. The Wall Street Journal notes this morning in an editorial headlined “The Unscary Sequester:”
The sequester will help the economy by leaving more capital for private investment. From 1992-2000 Democrat Bill Clinton and (after 1994) a Republican Congress oversaw budgets that cut federal outlays to 18.2% from 22.1% of GDP. These were years of rapid growth in production and incomes.
President Obama has warned that sequester would mean that people would lose jobs, food safety inspections would be harmed, and kids would be “kicked off” Head Start.
I don’t want to be flip about this. Losing a job is bad and especially so in this economy. But he is probably talking about jobs in government and if sequester helps trim government, then Republicans should welcome it. As for Head Start, studies have shown that it simply doesn’t help kids.
But here is one thing Republicans must say again and again: the idea for sequester came from the White House. Say it and say it again. The White House was just playing chicken. But this time it might have gotten caught playing games. Don’t let the parents of kids “kicked off” Head Start, who probably don’t know how ineffective the program really is, blame the GOP for this one. It's probably a good idea to deplore the sequester publicly--and maybe Republicans should call it "the Jack Lew sequester" because he is the genius who came up with the idea. He just didn't know how smart he was being!