Government Spending

Surprise: Obama and Boehner Just Say Yes to Automatic Sequester Cuts! As If That's Worth a Damn!


Whoda thunk it? In the face of the looming failure of the Super Committee to cut one thin dime from any real spending anywhere (as opposed to trims in anticipated increases over the next decade), the president and speaker of the House just say no to folks looking to scotch the $1.2 trillion trigger constructed in the summer's debt-ceiling increase deal:

President Obama has told the debt panel's co-chairmen that he "will not accept any measure that attempts to turn off the automatic cut trigger," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters last week. The leaders of both parties in the House and Senate have expressed similar sentiments — seemingly making any attempt to restore the money futile.

"Yes, I would feel bound by it," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said recently of the automatic cuts. "It was part of the agreement."…

More here.

The sad thing, of course, is that all of this is total bushwah, a classic case of misdirection. Here we are, talking about a paltry $1.2 trillion in future cuts (read: rounding errors) over 10 years in budgets that are already coming in at near nearly $4 trillion annually. We're talking about an aggregate cut over a decade that is smaller than recent years' annual deficits. It's like buying a car for $20,000 and then haggling over whether they throw the frickin' deluxe floor mats in for free.

To remind you, here's what happens to anticipated spending if the $1.2 trillion deal goes through:

$1.2 trillion over a decade just ain't what it used to be, in a country with $15 trillion in debt and a persistent habit of spending about two percentage points of GDP more than it takes in.

And before anyone starts in with the old "but we've been starving essential programs for years" shim-sham, recall this chart from "The 19 Percent Solution: How to Balance the Budget Without Raising the Taxes," by Veronique de Rugy (who supplies the chart above) and me:

The GOP is generally solid on opposing tax hikes, and they should be. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2010 that federal revenue over the next decade would rise to about 19 percent of GDP without any significant change to taxes. That's more than enough money to cover far more than essential government services at a rate higher than they were during the last couple of years of Bill Clinton's administration (Clinton's last budget spent 18.2 percent of GDP, and nobody was starving or in the streets). But the GOP, like the Dems, have yet to come across with serious proposals to cut $1.2 trillion in cuts. That's partly because they know that the bloated defense budget should be first on the chopping block, and Medicare (including nearly free prescription drugs for many seniors thanks to a GOP scheme pushed early on in the Bush years).

The sad thing about the United States is that we get the government we deserve. And then, via deficit spending, we make our kids and grandkids pay for it. Don't thank us, kids. Really. There will be plenty of time to do that when you're taking care of us in old age.

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