Sequestration

The American People Need Real Spending Cuts

Both sides are guilty of using fear in the sequestration debate.

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President Obama and other so-called progressives insist that the American people are not overly dependent on government. They also predict dire consequences if the automatic budget "cuts" known as sequestration take place March 1.

Both claims cannot be true. If modest across-the-board "cuts"—mainly cuts in the rate of growth—in military and domestic spending pose a threat to the American people and the U.S. economy, then the country is alarmingly dependent on government.

Federal spending has grown dramatically since the 1970s, with the biggest increases coming during Republican administrations. Spending today is hundreds of billions greater than in 2008 and much higher as a percentage of the economy. True, it is lower now than in 2009, but that year, a combination of George W. Bush and Obama "stimulus" spending, set a record.

The sequester consists of $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts in non-entitlement spending growth over ten years. To put that in perspective, Reason editor Nick Gillespie writes, "Remember that we're talking about $1.2 trillion dollars taken out of a projected $44 trillion or so in spending. What kind of budget discipline is that?"

As that March 1 sequester approaches, the Obama administration warns of severe consequences for national security and economic security.

It is hard to take seriously the claim that even a small and temporary decrease in Pentagon spending would endanger the American people. Military spending has skyrocketed since the year 2000, and the United States spends almost as much on the means of war as the rest of the world combined—indeed, it spends more than it did at the height of the Cold War. The U.S. military is now out of Iraq and is beginning to leave Afghanistan. One should expect a fall in spending under those circumstances—unless the government plans to invade more countries.

Yet Obama and outgoing defense secretary Leon Panetta foresee great danger. Nonsense. As Mercatus Center analyst Veronique de Rugy writes, "Defense spending has almost doubled in the past decade in current dollar terms and will continue to grow in spite of automatic cuts." Summarizing Rugy's findings, Gillespie writes, "Assuming maximum sequestration, Defense would increase only 16 percent in current dollars over the next decade, rather than 23 percent without sequestration." Some cut.

Of course, much could and should be cut from the military by ending the U.S. government's imperial foreign policy—which makes enemies for the American people—and moving to a policy of strict noninterventionism. This would not only save money; it would be the right thing to do. The U.S. government should not be policing the world.

What about the claims that a spending slowdown would harm the economy? We're told the economy could fall back into recession if spending is not maintained at the vigorous pace previously planned. After all, it is argued, if government workers are laid off and fewer military contracts are written, less money will be in people's hands to spend on goods and services. Considering that the government wouldn't actually have less revenue under sequestration, this is an outrageous exaggeration if not an outright lie. Of course, beneficiaries of that spending—especially the parasitic politicians and the military-industrial complex—have every reason to mislead the taxpayers. The people's natural interest in lower taxes and lower government spending must be overcome somehow. Frightening them into believing that even a slowing of the growth in spending would wreck the economy is just the ticket.

Even if it were true that the economy would slow down, it would be no more than a short-term effect that would quickly give way to real, sustainable economic growth, assuming the government took other needed steps to free the economy. Government employees and contractors spend the taxpayers' money. If the largess ends, the producers of that wealth will be free to spend and invest as they like. That's not only just; it's how sound economies are generated. Politicians use the force of the state to shape the economy to their own purposes. That violates freedom and stifles prosperity.

Contrary to the Keynesian ruling elite, government does not generate economic growth. The free market, unburdened by spending, taxes, regulation, and privilege, contains all that it needs to raise living standards for all. After sequestration, let's start seeing real and substantial cuts in spending.

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  1. A threat of cuts in defense or social programs terrifies the 75 million Americans that are dependent on government spending. They will be relieved when the US debt is increased by trillions of dollars, none will care about a possible default on the loan.

  2. This “issue” continues the narrative of the 2012 election outcome: we lost, people. The leeches in society far outnumber the people who value liberty and self-reliance, who are willing to give up their govt pony in exchange for fiscal sanity, and who get that the current course is not likely to end well.

  3. If the cuts happen, you can be certain the administration and journalists will suddenly be highlighting any and all negative economic indicators, and they will make sure you know it was the Republicans’ sequestration deal that caused them.

    1. And all of the parade of horribles in lost government services never mentioning that those horribles are only occurring because the President is choosing to make them occur.

    2. No doubt, but that might not be as effective as usual. The economy has been crappy a long time, and Americans are so used to bad news that the threshold of pain has probably risen quite a bit.

  4. http://www.washingtonpost.com/…..ml?hpid=z1

    Here the Democrats admit the truth. The worst case scenario is sequester happens and nothing happens. Even from a Keynesian perspective, THE GOVERNMENT WILL STILL SPEND MORE MONEY IN 2013 THAN IN 2012. So it is pretty difficult to argue it is going to destroy the economy.

    Given this you can expect Obama do use the cuts to do as much damage to the country as possible so that he can show how horrible any cuts in spending are. Amazing that we have a President who is that craven and that uninterested in doing his job.

    1. Amazing that we have a President who is that craven and that uninterested in doing his job.
      ———————–

      the only thing that is amazing is that the above does not pass as common knowledge given the evidence supporting it. Things are not the result of bad policy or bad advice; they are the intended outcome.

      This is the America – stagnant economy, high unemployment, greater govt dependency – that Obama wants. Any notion of the Dems as something other than the Evil Party should have been dispelled by now.

      1. People ignore it because the consequences of having a President who actually doesn’t care about the welfare of the country are too lousy to contemplate.

        1. then they are delusional. POTUS doesn’t give a shit, except to continue growing govt dependency and diminishing the nation. Lousy or not, the consequences are playing out before us.

          1. With maybe a couple of exceptions, the content providers here at Reason are delusional precisely that way. Most of them think that he may be misguided, but that at heart he’s a swell guy who’s doing his best to try to make things better.

            1. Even if it were true that the economy would slow down, it would be no more than a short-term effect that would quickly give way to real, sustainable economic growth, assuming the government took other needed steps to free the economy.

              I’m not really worried about the future economy since I am going to be fabulously wealthy very shortly, assuming that I win the lottery 15 times next month.

              Is that what you mean by delusional?

    2. My personal theory is that the govt shutdown we had in sunny MN a few years ago was precisely because no one was feeling any pain and the local liberals were worried about that message.

      That combined with the fact that there were looming issues with licensing for booze and smokes that were about to hit. Not anything important, but the silly grift licensing that goes on that no one really knows about.

      For example, the papers were running with the fact that you wouldn’t be able to buy Coors because they couldn’t pay their “licensing fee”.

      Like I said, I think the statists really didn’t want the public to figure out that really all the govt does is collect various fees from people trying to do business and they capitulated.

  5. Jesus Fearmongering Goatfuck on a platinum pogo stick.

    Ray laHood is on Meet the Press telling us all the planes will crash into each other if the sequester happens. “We’re not making this up.” Yes you are, you useless shitbag.

    The very fact that Ray laHood is a cabinet secretary is grounds for impeachment, as far as I am concerned.

    1. If Gregory were anything but a government hack, he would ask LaHood “so you are telling me you can’t do your job?”

      Jesus Christ on a crutch, you can’t run the FAA on 95% of your current budget?

      1. Come on, John, don’t you remember the carnage after Reagan fired every single air traffic controller? The skies rained fire and the runways were lakes of blood.

        1. I remember.

          It was anarchy. Chaos reigned over the lands. Roving packs of feral children wandered the wasteland that was the breadbasket. It was in those times I learned what fear really was.

          1. Indeed. Having been one of those cannibalistic feral children, myself, I remember the ballad they composed to remember those dark times.

          2. And all the poets were gathered in the stadiums and murdered by Reagan’s thugs. It was a dark time in America, that lingers through the continued absence of poetry. Do we want to go back to those dark days of deregulation and the law of the jungle?

  6. What few planes survive the plague of mid air collision will be blown up by terrorists.

    1. Is it sad that I wouldn’t put it past these people to actually crash planes for political benefit?

      1. Not sad, scary that that is a very real possibility.

        1. What is scary is that they are not accountable to anyone and the worst things they do the less likely they are to be held accountable. If they did do something like that, the media would never touch it and anyone who claimed they did would be written off as a kook.

      2. Is it sad that I wouldn’t put it past these people to actually crash planes for political benefit?

        Yes, but considering what went on after Newtown, it is understandable.

        1. They do love dead children.

  7. There it is; can we afford a patchwork of laws where gun control is concerned?

    The Central Authority fetishists are rubbing their boners excitedly. We need top down federal control of gun regulation, to put all those interstate gun runners out of business.

    1. Of course. See, high gun crime rates in gun control states is due to guns coming in from less restrictive states. It’s so obvious! That’s the beauty of being a progressive, it means never having to admit you’re wrong. We’re always just a few tweaks away from the perfect system.

      1. That is right. And if people continue to get guns after a national ban, it will be because evil Mexican drug gangs are importing them. So we will just have to invade Mexico.

  8. Shocking. Maria Bartiromo, not exactly an intellect I respect highly, actually brought up the topic of debt service in the MtP round table. The determined refusal of the chattering class to even admit the unsustainable manipulation of interest rates for the benefit of the government is truly incredible.

    Of course, nobody wants to talk about how perverting the market signal for the price of money causes mammoth malinvestment and further impedes the recovery of the economy.

    1. Wow. You have to grade Bartiromo on the curve. She got her job because of her tits not her brains.

      1. Wow. You have to grade Bartiromo on the curve. She got her job because of her tits not her brains.

        So? That’s how Krugman got his job too!

  9. high gun crime rates in gun control states is due to guns coming in from less restrictive states.

    Exactly. Chicago’s violence problems have nothing to do with a dysfunctional government, failed schools, and a completely broken economy in which some random barely literate alderman can extort concessions from any business which wants to operate in the city. It’s the Flood of Gunz from other, less civilized states.

    1. Remember the NYT columnist who wrote to the people of Virginia after the VA Tech shooting that they basically got what they deserved because their gun laws were responsible for all the murders in NYC?

    2. It’s the Flood of Gunz from other, less civilized states.

      And if you point out that those less civilized states have lower crime rates, they’ll start splutting about “demographics.”

      Te only response to that should be, “So you’re what you’re telling me is that the problem is guns in the hands of ‘minorities’ which means you’re a racist.”

  10. This is going to be an unpopular post, and at the risk of being branded a Team Red libertarian, there are some things you all should know.

    It is hard to take seriously the claim that even a small and temporary decrease in Pentagon spending would endanger the American people. Military spending has skyrocketed since the year 2000, and the United States spends almost as much on the means of war as the rest of the world combined?indeed, it spends more than it did at the height of the Cold War. The U.S. military is now out of Iraq and is beginning to leave Afghanistan. One should expect a fall in spending under those circumstances?unless the government plans to invade more countries.

    While the rest of the paragraph is correct, the last sentence is patently false. And here is why. The military is broken. I assume it’s the same for all the branches, but I can only speak for the Air Force. The AF has been in a death spiral since the mid-90s. While military spending HAS increased, ALL of the increases PLUS what would normally be used to reconstitute the fleets was poured into the war effort. Nearly ALL of the aircraft in the AF need replaced. They are held together with shoestrings and bubblegum and there are jets literally coming apart in the sky.

    1. Read this (sorry, kinda long).

      Air Force Cuts Mean Service Is ‘Slowly Going Out of Business’

      These budget cuts would not present such dire effects if the Air Force had been able to use the past decade to recapitalize its fleet and overarching infrastructure. At the end of World War Two, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Cold War, the service was able to weather post-war budget downturns precisely because it had reset the majority of its capabilities during wartime.
      Circumstances were different this past decade. The Air Force, already stretched thin by the 1990s procurement holiday, actually saw its percentage of the defense budget decline by one-third during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The service canceled or delayed the vast majority of its modernization portfolio to sustain wartime operational demands.

      Can we reduce the size of the military? You bet. But that requires a change in national policy. Civilian leadership needs to decide to pursue a policy of non-interventionism, define what that means and reshape the military to support said policy and equip and fund it for its new roll.

      Let the arrows fly.

      1. It’s pretty bad, but the sequester isn’t actually cutting money so the boohooing is utter bullshit.

        1. The point being, IF you expect a viable Air Force, it will need to be reconstituted.

          You can either change strategy and reconstitute it to a lower level, keep the same commitments and INCREASE spending to reconstitute it or continue on this path and have nothing.

      2. Sounds like the usual problem of always preparing to fight the last war, instead of the next.

        1. The reason warfare evolves is because people come up with ways of defeating the tactics that worked in the last conflict.

          If we were to get rid of all our airplanes and tanks because “that’s so WW II” there’s no reason to believe the next opponent wouldn’t revert to trench warfare.

          AND the crystal ball manufacturers are just charging too damn much for their product and the military can’t afford them.

    2. Our 20-plus year adventure in the Middle East has done more to kill the Air Force fleet than any other factor, other than relying on increasingly complex, expensive, one-size-fits-all aircraft that don’t come close to meeting what was promised (looking at you, F-35 and CV-22).

      They probably could have flown the Pave Lows another 15 years, at least, if they hadn’t been tearing them up in the desert all this time.

  11. if the Air Force had been able to use the past decade to recapitalize

    And who, precisely, is to blame for this? What would happen if we marched the twenty five highest ranking Air Force officials onto the Washington Mall, to be executed by firing squad? And we can bring the CEOs of Boeing, General Dynamics and Northrop, too.

    1. And who, precisely, is to blame for this?

      Congress.

      You don’t think Congress gives the AF $300B each year and just allows the AF to spend it as it sees fit do you? Congress directs where every dime goes. The AF has seen this coming for a decade and cannot convince Congress to put the money in the right pots so that it could be prevented.

      Not that the AF is efficient or anything, but they have NOT been properly reconstituted for what they’ve been required to do over the lat 20 years.

      1. This is another issue as well, and part of it is the fact that the Air Force needs to either 1) better learn how the lobbying game is played, or 2) roll back into the Army and at least get some people on their side to fight for their projects.

        I seriously doubt that the Air Force would have stuck with the CV-22, for instance, if the Marines hadn’t been so fanatically focused on bringing the plane online, and the Marines are masters at working their Congressional lobbying network. So now the AF is stuck with a piece of shit plane that moves fast and looks pretty, but is poorly designed, is a pain in the ass and expensive as hell to maintain because the parts are wearing out faster than Bell-Boeing promised, and is going to be dealing with service-wide small-fleet dynamics problems for decades.

  12. Sorry, but the continued existence of the F35 program makes me think the Air Force SHOULD be allowed to go out of business.

    1. The acquisition system is dictated by Congress. The game is simple. Congress makes the services play by the most inefficient rules possible and then turns around and blames the services for being inefficient.

      As for the F-35…

      I cannot name one aircraft that didn’t have issues initially. It’s not easy designing cutting edge technology. They always get worked out.

      That’s not to say that the contractors don’t bid low initially to obtain the contracts and then turn around and overrun.

      1. I cannot name one aircraft that didn’t have issues initially. It’s not easy designing cutting edge technology. They always get worked out.

        The F-35 is the Tesla Roadster/Chevy Volt of the Air Force.

        1. Why do you say that?

          1. It gives certain people a woody but costs way too much for the functionality of doubtful utility?

            1. doubtful utility?

              It will be/is the most lethal and more importantly most survivable ground attack fighter ever made. 4th generation technology cannot survive on a 5th generation battlefield.

              1. In what plausible scenario are we doing CAS in a 5th generation battlefield with active air defenses? In the implausible scenarios, how is are the limited numbers of F-35s enough? How many ground attack aircraft have geen lost since Vietnam to ground fire in the wars we’ve actually fought the last 40 years?

                1. We haven’t been in a real war since Vietnam and the answer to your question is 30.

                  The F-35 might not be flying CAS until the defenses are down, but it will sure as shit be flying interdiction missions prior. The F-35 does more than CAS.

              2. It will be/is the most lethal and more importantly most survivable ground attack fighter ever made.

                It’s an overpriced lemon that doesn’t deliver near what’s promised. And in terms of being the “most survivable ground attack fighter” ever made, it’s never going to touch the A-10, which is still the most cost-effective, lethal air platform the Air Force (or, more accurately, people not associated with SAC) ever devised.

                4th generation technology cannot survive on a 5th generation battlefield.

                The F-35 is, to be quite frank, a money pit. They can’t even get the damn engine correct.

                http://www.yumasun.com/news/en…..oblem.html

                1. Bla, bla. bla…

                  God knows no other engine in the inventory ever cracked a turbine blade.

                  The Hog was a great aircraft. Wouldn’t last 10 minutes in a 5th gen environment.

                  1. So, what potential enemy could provide a 5th generation environment?

                    1. Any of them.

                      a. Russia and China. (France and India less likely).

                      b. Anyone that the above decide to sell their shit to.

                      c. It takes 20 years to develop and field a new fighter. And they stay in service for 30+ years. So you are not fielding the F-35 to beat today’s threats, you are fielding it to defeat the threats 30 years down the road because that’s all you’ll have to work with. ANYTHING can happen in 30 years. Zimbabwe could have Gen 5 threats for all we know.

                      THAT’S why you need to be the country with the best/latest stuff. When I left my acquisition/staff job in 06 there had been hundreds (if not thousands) of engagements (mock) between F-22s and F-15s. At that time, the F-15 had won exactly ONE. And it was a lucky kill. The new stuff is that much better. If someone else has it and you don’t…you are fucked!

  13. Those poor, poor, generals, always getting their lunch money stolen by Congress. It’s tragic. Between that, and getting snapped with towels and pushed naked into the hallway after gym class, it’s a wonder anybody will even take those jobs.

    1. You’ll be hard pressed to get me to defend/feel sorry for Generals. They are, by and large, spineless careerist assholes. But on this score, the only thing they could possibly be blamed for is not screaming loud enough, soon enough. There isn’t anyone in the AF over the rank of Captain that hasn’t seen this coming for over a decade. Two useless wars only exacerbated the issue and brought it to a head sooner.

      You see Brooksie, anyone who hasn’t been exposed to the military acquisition system thinks as you do. How hard is it to contract for “stuff”.

      After living it for 4 years, I can tell you from experience, it is the single most fucked up, inefficient beyond hope government function on the face of the planet. You’ll have to take my word for it, because explaining it would take an entire book. It is so complicated that the vast majority of those in the military don’t understand it, let alone anyone off the street.

      And all of it dictated by Congress. Why, because it means POWER for them.

      Generals tell Congress what they need to do the job asked of them. That is the extent of their ability to effect change.

  14. anyone who hasn’t been exposed to the military acquisition system thinks as you do.

    I do recognize how disastrously fucked up the system is, but I blame the military, too, for willingly engaging in the process which has allowed the system to become politicized and turned into a government jobs program.

    And, of course, the sort of risk-averse ass-covering which leads to vehicles which should be a simple tool for a specific job being turned into massive ready for anything, but actually good for nothing monsters.

    1. I blame the military, too, for willingly engaging in the process which has allowed the system to become politicized and turned into a government jobs program.

      To be fair, it’s hard to say what they can do much differently. The civilians are the bosses, and the military follows their orders. The scummy politicians want the system to operate this way with all its graft and corruption, and any officer who tries to speak out is going to be pushed aside and moved out.

  15. And let’s not talk about self-aggrandisement, mission creep, turf warfare, or overlap of tactical responsibilities.

    1. And let’s not talk about self-aggrandisement, mission creep, turf warfare, or overlap of tactical responsibilities.

      No argument. I would combine all four arms into one.

  16. I blame the military, too, for willingly engaging in the process which has allowed the system to become politicized and turned into a government jobs program.

    And what would you have them do? Go on strike? About all that can be done is for Generals to fall on their swords. And IMHO, that should be the job of a General. But they all succumb to the notion that they can effect more change by staying and fighting than they can by resigning. Which is bullshit.

    Recently, the CSAF (and the Secretary) was fired for disagreeing with the administration. Moseley somewhat restored my faith in leadership. He should have gone public, but didn’t. What happened, they found some POS dick sucker to replace him.

    vehicles which should be a simple tool for a specific job being turned into massive ready for anything, but actually good for nothing monsters.

    You can make a tool for each job, or a tool for multiple jobs. Which is more efficient?

    1. Moseley somewhat restored my faith in leadership.

      Moseley was a double-talking piece of shit. Speaking as someone who was enlisted AF during his tenure, I was happy as hell to see him canned.

  17. You can make a tool for each job, or a tool for multiple jobs. Which is more efficient?

    Sometimes, what you need is just a plain old shovel.

    1. Yeah, but imagine a shovel with a hammer on the end of the handle, an adjustable wrench sticking out of the middle, common- and phillips-head screwdrivers coming out of the blade of the shovel…

  18. Doublethink, a word coined by George Orwell in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, describes the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct.

  19. Both sides are guilty of using fear in the sequestration debate.

    So where is the other side’s fearmongering? Unless he is talking about the GOP when he refers to military spending he only addresses one side.

  20. Oh and yes the Americans need real spending cuts. Not sure how many actually want those real spending cuts.

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