Thursday, August 23, 2012

Standard-Examiner: Election-Year Politics Keep Sequestration Threat Alive

Yes, gentle readers, there's plenty of congressional blame to go around

Top-notch story in this morning's Standard-Examiner, bringing to the local public forefront a federal budgetary "'knife' that threatens to lop 10 percent off 2500 defense programs starting Jan. 2," according to the Standard's syndicated military columnist, Tom Philpot:
Taking into account our local economy's dependence on the Hill Air Force Base cash cow, this is definitely a story with local implications, folks.

For those readers who may need a memory refresher, Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson presents the background on this dilemma "for the 99.99 percent of Americans who aren’t budget wonks":
Last summer, Congress passed the Budget Control Act (BCA), raising the federal debt ceiling and pledging to cut budget deficits by at least $2.1 trillion from 2012 to 2021. Of that, cuts of $900 billion were included in the BCA — with half from defense. Congress then created a “supercommittee” of 12 of its members to achieve the remaining $1.2 trillion of deficit reduction through more spending cuts or tax increases.
Sequestration aimed to promote agreement by creating an alternative that seemed worse: automatic cuts in defense and non-defense spending. The theory was that the fear of sequester would so upset Republicans (against deep defense cuts) and Democrats (against domestic cuts) that they would negotiate a more acceptable package. By the same logic, Congress would then approve the supercommittee’s plan.
Wrong. The supercommittee didn’t agree, and Congress didn’t vote. With hindsight, this is unsurprising, because the sequester is not neutral. Though defense spending represents 19 percent of the budget in 2012, it would absorb half the cuts. Moreover, many entitlements (Social Security, Medicaid) were excluded from cuts. As supporters of domestic spending, Democrats had less reason to fear sequester. Similarly, the sequestration imposed no automatic tax increases; this appealed to Republicans. And because sequestration itself wouldn’t start until 2013, failing to agree in late 2011 had little political fallout.
So: The sequestration now scheduled for next January means about another $500 billion in military cuts over the decade. These are in addition to the $487 billion in defense reductions already in the BCA and billions of earlier cuts ordered by former defense secretary Robert Gates, who ended some major programs including the F-22 stealth fighter. Nor do these cuts count the automatic reductions occurring from withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan. Even without sequester, defense spending is estimated to fall to 13 percent of the budget in 2017.
Just like clockwork, there's plenty of finger pointing from both sides of the congessional political aisle, of course, as this issue looms as a party-partisan major federal election issue this year, and our federal congress-critters continue to dodge their legislative/budgetary responsibilities, even a mere 73 days shy of the November election:
Fascinating quote from Rep. Justin Amash (R) of Michigan, ("a libertarian lawmaker who frequently bucks his party for not being stringent enough on spending"):
I think it’s completely hypocritical for the people who voted to raise the debt ceiling, who voted for sequestration, now to be calling it ‘devastating.'
Yes, gentle readers, there's plenty of congressional blame to go around.

We'll be keeping a close eye on this story as it develops.

The floor's open for your ever-savvy comments, O Gentle Ones.

Don't let the cat get your tongues...

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