Election 2012

Get Ready for Stories About How Cutting $1.2 Trillion in Future Spending is Responsible for Today's Government Failures

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Now that the White House has released its massive sequestration report detailing the $1.2 trillion in possible cuts to future spending over the next 10 years, expect to read more headlines like the following from Buzzfeed:

Mandatory Defense Cuts Would Slash Funding To Security At Embassies, Report Says

You got that implication, kemo sabe?

Possible future trims in spending have something to do with what's going in the Middle East right now. Not that embassies are under attack now because of American foreign policy or world events or rotten security or whatever. Or that we can't defend our citizens and diplomatic corps right now despite record-high levels of spending on defense and military operations for most of the 21st century.

No, the real bad news is coming if and when the United States stops its 12-year long spending spree that has all but killed any chance of recovery and piled on the debt like Dagwood Bumstead loading cold cuts onto a sandwich roll.

Here's Buzzfeed's description of sequestration, or the automatic cuts that will kick in on January 1, 2013, if lawmakers can't get their act together to slice virtually nothing from the next 10 years' worth of anticipated spending:

Sequestration, which is scheduled to take effect at the end of the year and would cut roughly $1.2 trillion in spending, was approved by default after a Congressional "super committee" failed to reach an agreement to cut spending and reduce the federal deficit. Nondefense discretionary spending, which includes embassy security, will be cut by 8.2 percent, according to a senior administration official.

Politico quotes from the report thus:

"No amount of planning can mitigate the effect of these cuts. Sequestration is a blunt and indiscriminate instrument. It is not the responsible way for our nation to achieve deficit reduction," the Office of Management and Budget wrote. ""The report leaves no question that the sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments and core government functions."

This much is true: The planned cuts are across- the-board to particular programs including everything from defense to Medicare to education to you name it (that was the point, to share the costs).

And this much is complete bullshit: "sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments and core government functions."

In fact, the cuts for 2013 amount to maybe a whopping $120 billion in an annual budget that is likely to run about $3.8 trillion. Out of the $120 billion, about $50 billion will come out of military budget that will be well north of $650 billion, including war funding.

Let's leave aside the mad rush by every part of the government to link its current failures to a future spending cut and instead point out the obvious: Sequestration in no way threatens any basic governmental function. Period.

Federal spending has ballooned since George W. Bush first darkened the door at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and was then succeeded by Barack Obama, who continues to max out the credit cards (both had the help of Congress). Over the next decade, the GOP's budget envisions spending around $40 trillion (in current dollars) and the president estimates spending around $48 trillion (in current dollars).

To pretend that shaving $1.2 trillion off either those totals means any government program anywhere is going to go begging is the biggest con in a long, long time. If we can't cut spending—or even hold it steady for a few years in a row, fer chrissakes—shouldn't we just give up now?

We are broke as a nation, having for way too long spent beyond our means. But we are not yet broke when it comes to basic common sense. I hope, anyway.

Related: How to balance the budget in ten years without raising taxes. Seriously.