Life after sequester

Hunker down in your bunkers. Today is when the budget cuts under the process known as sequester begin to take effect, and life as we know it will change.

Or not.

It’s now clear that teachers don’t need to be laid off as a result of the sequester. Major delays at airports aren’t necessary, and our military won’t have to stand down.

Perhaps the worst impact of the sequester is that it continues the uncertainty about what the government will do in both the short and long terms with our budget and debt.

That uncertainty leads businesses and individuals to be very careful about how they spend their money, delaying major purchases or investments in new equipment that could spur the sputtering recovery. Hence the anemic numbers for economic growth the past few months.

Most federal agencies are facing their own uncertainty, not knowing whether they will be able to proceed with planned projects, training or other spending.

That’s a large part of the reason we, like many others, believe a negotiated budget agreement that utilized targeted spending cuts rather than the sequester’s across-the-board cuts — and would have provided some budget certainty — would have been much preferable to what’s occurring today.

However, we share the skepticism of most Americans that the relatively small cuts required by the sequester will be as devastating as the president and his team have suggested.

Media outlets that have long supported President Barack Obama have been questioning his administration’s dire predictions of what will occur if the sequester takes effect.

The Washington Post on Wednesday published a thorough debunking of what it called Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s “false claim of ‘pink slips’ for teachers.”

Several media organizations have questioned whether the FAA really needs to furlough as many air traffic controllers as Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has claimed will be necessary. One said most of the 100 air traffic control centers LaHood said would have to be closed were already slated for closure because they are small and under-utilized.

Many liberals and some conservatives say they don’t expect the cuts in military spending under sequester to be nearly as damaging to our defense as some have predicted. In fact, there are arguments that the cuts are necessary anyway as we disengage from military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Obama administration exacerbated sequester skepticism when Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it would release hundreds of illegal immigrants being held for deportation and blamed it on the coming cuts. The White House later tried to distance the president from the releases, but a spokesman still argued they were necessary due to sequestration.

Allowing a top administration official to fight with legendary Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward — whether a threat was made or not — did little to help the president’s cause.

There will be effects from the sequester, some of them no doubt painful. But they won’t be as cataclysmic as the Obama administration has tried to make us to believe.


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In chronicling potential local impacts of the “sequester” (“Sequester pressure”, March 1, 2013), the Sentinel’s companion editorial (“Life after sequester”) ignored its origins.

In July 2011, Republicans threatened our “full faith and credit” by manufacturing a “debt ceiling” crisis – demanding trillions of dollars in deficit reduction and sabotaging economic recovery.  Democrats sought matching revenue increases; Republicans refused.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 “kicked the can down the road” – first, to the so-called “Super Committee”, then – if the committee failed to reach agreement (as it did)—to the “fiscal cliff” on January 1, 2013.  In the meantime, Speaker Boehner claimed that he’d gotten 98% of what he wanted in the “sequester” deal – because President Obama (who has reduced annual deficits every year he’s been in office) agreed to $1.2 trillion in cuts.

In November 2012, voters clearly favored President Obama’s “balanced approach”, but Republicans remained intransigent.  The last minute “fiscal cliff” deal gave the President only 50% of the additional revenues he’d requested, but delayed “sequester” to March 1, 2013 – in hopes that Congress would come to its senses by then.  It didn’t.

Congress faced three choices – “do no harm” (by simply repealing sequestration), imposing mindless “meat cleaver” cuts on all discretionary spending and the military budget, or enact the tax reforms everyone previously agreed would raise needed revenue.

As a percent of GDP, the bulk of our national debt was created by the economic policies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush.  The more recent burgeoning of our debt is a direct result of the 2009 “depression” inherited by President Obama.

As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified to the Senate Banking Committee this week, the most cost-effective long-term approach is to raise revenue now to invest in economic growth (job creation).  That’s precisely what President Obama has proposed – and what Republicans obstinately reject.

                Bill Hugenberg

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