March 3 2013
Remember back in 2011 when radio broadcaster and end-of-the-world prognosticator Harold Camping predicted the world’s end on October 21 yet the day passed with nary a sign of Armageddon?
Last year, the ancient Mayans and a few North American self-proclaimed prophets like Warren Jeffs had various dates in December pegged for the end. Imagine the surprise of their true believers when the sun came up the next day. Did they feel relief? Disappointment? Skepticism (somewhat overdue) toward their leaders? Some no doubt have left the cult while others wait in trepidation for their prophet to predict a new date of apocalypse.
More recently, what did those who believed in the sequestration end-of-the-world feel when they woke up this morning and everything was as they left it last night? Air traffic controllers are still directing flights and no planes have fallen from the sky. Medical research is still going on. Teachers are on their way to work as are health inspectors. National parks are open. Children are getting vaccinated. Government satellites continue to orbit the earth. The day will go on as every other day before it. No need to stay in the bunker.
As for the true believers, are they experiencing relief that the $85 billion cut—a mere 2.3 percent from this year’s $3.6 trillion budget—has not thrown the country into crisis? Or disappointment that the great federal government is not so indispensable that its growth rate cannot be trimmed a little without dire consequences? Will they feel skepticism (somewhat overdue) toward the self-interested politicians who use scare tactics to get what they want and the press that hypes fears for ratings? Some no doubt are now tuning out the fear mongering while others wait for the politicians to cry Armageddon once again.
During the past couple of “crises,” politicians’ fear mongering has successfully prevented any spending cuts while justifying tax hikes. It’s been “A tournament, tournament, a tournament of lies” to quote R.E.M.’s manic song It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine). Tales of fiscal cliffs and government shut-downs have distracted from the real problems ahead like the $16 trillion in national debt, Social Security and Medicare’s fragile financial footing, and yearly trillion plus dollar deficits.
While sequestration may not be the best way to cut an irresponsible $3.6 trillion budget, it has become the only way that politicians will do what is right. Only the House of Representatives has had the courage to cut spending, but it cannot act alone. Incredibly, Senate Democrats and the White House tried to pass a bill yesterday that would have increased spending and raised taxes. Didn’t Congress just raise taxes? Without sequestration, the status quo remains unchallenged and that is a truly scary situation.
In the end, however, sequestration is insufficient to adequately reduce the deficit. Because it is only a cut in the growth of spending, the government will still spend more taxpayer money next year than it did this year. More cuts in discretionary spending are long overdue and there are countless examples of duplicative and ineffective federal programs and endless corporate and farm subsidies from which lawmakers can choose. Half of the budget, however, is devoted to mandatory spending—Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and interest on the debt—all of which is exempt from the sequester. It is clear that lawmakers must summon the will to reform these programs in order to balance the budget now and for the long term. In 2020,interest on the federal debt will rise to $1 trillion a year. Over the next decade the Social Security disability fund and Medicare hospital insurance run out of reserves. In another ten years, Social Security will run dry. The sequester does nothing to stave off these daunting budget crises.
The sequester does, however, prove that government spending can be cut without triggering the end of the world. It shows the crisis mongering on the Left for what it is—a con designed to milk the public for more money.