I’ve been absent from this blog for almost three months. Much has happened during that time. General David Petraeus gave us a good, old-fashioned sex scandal. Congress took us to the brink of the “fiscal cliff”, then reached a deal to raise taxes a small amount on a small number of people. I read a lot of books. Some movies came out in theaters, which I ignored. A relative of mine had surgery and another entered a long-term therapy program. Winter weather in Virginia was unusually mild, though the Northeast got pummeled. The Pope stepped down. And today, a mere two months after the aversion of the fiscal cliff, we are at the start of the next financial doomsday: “the sequester”.
The deal is this. Nineteen months ago, there was showdown in Washington. Congressional Republicans demanded budget cuts and refused to raise the debt ceiling without them. President Obama at first insisted that he wouldn’t accept cuts without tax hikes, which the GOP naturally opposed. The final deal was as follows: Congress voted to raise the debt ceiling along with a guarantee that one of two things would happen. Either the parties would agrees to cuts totaling about a trillion dollars over the next decade, or else there would be across-the-board cuts to every discretionary government program.
In November of 2011, the “supercommittee” tasked with finding a compromise failed to approve anything, so the across-the-board cuts became the only option. Originally they were scheduled for Jan. 1 of this year along with the expiration of George W. Bush’s massive tax cuts–that was the “fiscal cliff”. The President and Congress agreed on a tax deal, while the spending cuts were delayed until March 1–now. This time no compromise appeared to save the day and now the cuts are going into effect.
Some predict disaster. On one front, the President and his allies say that drastic cutbacks will hit social services, leading to everything from longer lines at airports to criminals being released from prison. On the opposite side, Republicans insist that the military will be gutted. Here in my humble corner of the nation, I predict not much will happen.
First of all, there are no actual cuts to the government. Federal spending will increase this year, and next year, and the year after. The sequester only slightly reduced the rate at which federal spending is going up. Almost all federal programs are bloated and could afford a small reduction in budget without many consequences. The Department of Defense does not actually defend the United States. It attacks other countries and sucks up money via useless pork-barrel projects. The less money it has, the better off we all are.
So I say: Sequester away!