If nothing is done, on Friday the sequestration deal means that the federal government will need to start trimming $85 billion in automatic spending cuts from the budget. Currently, the entire federal budget debt is above $16 trillion. It's easy to understand why Americans are unimpressed with arguments from pols, including President Barack Obama, and our local U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, that sequestration will cause harm for the nation.
It's the pols' fault that we are at sequestration. The White House and Congress hatched this deal in a cynical manner, content to procrastinate our budget problems to a far-off date that seemed so distant in 2011. But now it's here, Congress and the White House still have a dysfunctional relationship, and a poor budget deal, hatched in bad faith, is about to take effect.
President Obama, Representative Bishop, and others are right. The sequestration deal is bad policy. It cuts programs less worthy of being cut, such as education, initiatives for the poor, air traffic security, health care for the most vulnerable, and our nation's defense (workers at Hill Air Force Base will face furloughs, for example).
What the sequester doesn't do is address the real problems that have caused the budget debt to grow, such as stemming the growth of entitlements, including Medicare, and tackling tax reform, which could save hundreds of billions of dollars.
Dealing with entitlements and tax reform are hard tasks. They require compromise and the courage by pols of both parties to stand up to interest groups. That's why they are not on the table today. In our opinion, the entire sequestration deal was hatched with the idea that it would never take effect. It was a kick-the-can-down-the-road effort designed to buy pols' time to avoid hard decisions.
But the road's blocked and the can may not be kicked; it's time for our elected leaders to lead. Make the cuts, but do them in a smart responsible manner. Americans know that the Obama administration is spending too much money. Americans know that the Bush administration spent too much money. They regard pols' doom-and-gloom arguments as Chicken Little thinking. Congress and the White House need to enact tax reform and modest entitlement cuts. Such an effort would restore confidence in Washington D.C.