I hate ultimatums. I always feel like the threatened punishments are more serious than the demands. The same can be said of the impending budget sequestration.
Congress thought it would be easy to find $1.2 billion in deficit reductions over 10 years.
Alas, the bipartisan “Super Committee” charged with determining the cuts could not reach a solution, an the result is across-the-board cuts equaling the same $1.2 billion being implemented on March 1.
In the short run, there will be $85 billion in cuts over just the next seven months, a huge setback to our slow economic recovery.
The sequester will target huge proportions of both nondefense discretionary and defense spending, though the proportions are based neither on policy expertise nor common sense.
Rather than a thoughtful, comprehensive plan to cut spending in particular areas and eliminate tax deductions for the wealthiest Americans, arbitrary cuts to most core government services will take place.
Virginia is one of the states that will be hurt the most.
According to a report released by the White House, approximately 90,000 Department of Defense employees in Virginia will be furloughed, meaning 90,000 Virginians won't have a job nor pay for an indeterminate amount of time.
The Hampton Roads area will be hit hardest, according to Republican representatives Scott Rigell, Randy Forbes and Rob Wittmann. Langley Air Force Base and Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval station, will suffer substantial spending cuts.
In terms of education, the report claims, “Virginia will lose approximately $14 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 190 teacher and aide jobs at risk.”
Tell me again why we need to cut education spending?
There are those on the Republican side who feel the sequester is a necessary evil. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, for example, wants to downplay the military spending cuts, noting the sequester merely slows the rate of increase of defense spending.
It took you long enough, Senator.
In one of my columns, published way back on Sept. 25, I remarked, “…remember, the consequences of going over the fiscal cliff would not freeze military spending levels, but simply would slow down the increase…” Anyone familiar with the fiscal cliff, as Sen. Cornyn should definitely be, should understand the nature of the cuts to military spending.
But even this realization overlooks the fact the Department of Defense initiates new projects on a regular basis, such as the ones in Dahlgren, Oceana, and Norfolk, Va. The automatic defense cuts due to sequestration will force the Department of Defense to defer these projects.
So what are Democrats and Republicans doing to solve the problem? Are they working on a bipartisan plan to cut needless spending but preserve important government programs?
Doesn’t look like it.
Monday saw no votes scheduled in either chamber to deal with the sequester. Both parties have flatly rejected the policy proposals of the other, with Democrats urging for decreases in tax deductions and Republicans calling for more targeted spending cuts. A substantive bipartisan solution seems out of reach.
Yet, a solution does exist: Congress can pass a law avoiding the sequester altogether.
The sequester scheme was never meant to go into effect. Rather, it was meant to codify drastic, arbitrary spending cuts that would scare Congress into implementing intelligent deficit reduction.
Must the country suck it up and take the cuts if they are not written in stone? I don’t believe so.
It sets terrible precedent, sure, but it would prevent devastating cuts to the economy. Even the Congressional Budget Office estimates the sequester will reduce job growth by 750,000 jobs. Such a shock to the economy will be a stain on the conscience of every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat.