Government Spending

If You Can Read This, You're Surviving the Sequester Cuts

The truth is that the terrifying sequester cuts weren't even cuts.


If you're reading this, you've survived the "sequester" cuts!

That may surprise you, since President Obama likened the sequester to taking a "meat cleaver" to government, causing FBI agents to be furloughed, prosecutors to let criminals escape and medical research to grind to a halt!

The media hyped it, too. The NBC Nightly News said, "The sequester could cripple air travel, force firefighter layoffs—even kick preschoolers out of child care!"

The truth is that the terrifying sequester cuts weren't even cuts. They were merely a small reduction in government's planned increase in spending. A very small reduction.

White House Flickr feed

After a decade, the federal government will simply spend about $4.6 trillion a year instead of $4.5 trillion (in 2012 dollars).

And still members of Congress, Republicans included, look for ways to delay the cuts, like spreading them out over 10 years instead of making any now. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., asked, "If we cannot do this little bit … how are we ever going to balance the budget?"

Actually, we don't even need to balance the budget. If we just slowed the growth of government to 1 or 2 percent a year, we could grow our way out of unsustainable debt.

Paul recommends freezing hiring of federal workers, staying out of most foreign military conflicts and eliminating four Cabinet-level departments: Housing, Education, Energy and Commerce. Why do we even have a Commerce Department? Commerce just happens. The free market provides housing and energy. Education is funded by states.

Those Cabinet departments don't exist just to help you. The housing budget funds vouchers that give people an incentive not to seek higher-paying jobs, plus advocacy groups and in a few cases even homes for the bureaucrats themselves.

Federal education spending pleases education bureaucrats and teachers unions but doesn't raise kids' test scores. Energy subsidies go to "green" crony capitalists like those who ran Solyndra. The Commerce Department awards taxpayer-funded trips to politically connected CEOs to promote their companies overseas.

We could cut still more departments. I'd start with the departments of Labor and Agriculture. Workers can labor and farmers can farm without federal help.

But the chances of bigger cuts—or tackling the biggest threat, Medicare—seem remote when government won't even ditch budget items like these:

— $140,000 to study pig feces in China.

— $100,000 for a videogame about aliens saving planets from climate change.

— $88,000 for a comedy tour in India called "Make Chai, Not War."

— $55,000 to study immaturity and drinking.

Did those sound like jokes? They are all too real.

Maybe I—and people my age—can avoid making cuts. Since so much spending is lavished on older Americans, we can let younger generations foot the bill. But that will be tricky, since the portion of the population that's my age keeps getting larger.

My fellow baby boomers and I rudely refuse to die, and we want all the cool new stuff modern medicine invents. We expect it to be free, or nearly free, through Medicare.

Unfortunately, there aren't enough young people to pay for what we'll collect from Medicare. Birth rates are falling. Young people in America now don't have enough babies to replace themselves, let alone enough to become workers to fund Medicare. Worse, many of those young people learned bad lessons from us baby boomers—like how to be parasites.

One student from California State, Northridge told my viewers that his plan for the future is: "Beat the system—take out a bunch of loans, and don't pay them back. … What (else) are you going to do, work?"

Well, someone has to.

Frederic Bastiat wrote, "Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else."

But government, which wants you to think it is so useful and generous, can't spend a dime until it takes that dime from us.

It's time to stop kidding ourselves. Think of the sequester "cuts" as a very gentle wake-up call.

NEXT: Sen. Rand Paul Filibustering John Brennan for CIA Right Now Over Domestic Drones

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  1. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., asked, “If we cannot do this little bit … how are we ever going to balance the budget?”

    Answer: we aren’t.

    Today’s paper said the Iraq war cost the U.S. $800 billion over the decade. That’s less than one year’s deficit spending! Sure, the
    war sucked and the money should never have been wasted on Al Maliki.
    But, put in perspective, amazingly it was only a small fraction of the deficit increase and less than the amount needed to be cut to balance one
    year’s deficit.

    1. Relative to our governments current overdrive spending craze, that almost seems frugal for a 10 year war on the other side of the planet.

  2. I dunno… My power has been on and off all morning due to sequestration. No, I’m sure it has nothing to do with the snow, sleet, freezing rain and the dump truck that ran down the power pole a mile down the road.

    1. Your wording implies that it was the truck itself that ran down the pole, not the truck driver. From which I can only conclude that there was no driver, which is obviously due to the sequester.


      1. Not to mention good luck getting federal aid in dealing with all that snow, sleet, and freezing rain now that TEH SEKWESTER has kicked in!



    1. I am planning on resorting to cannibalism…shortly.




  4. Thanks to the sequester, there was no dingo to eat my baby!

  5. …”even kick preschoolers out of child care!”
    Needs more exclamation points.

    1. And ones. Oh, and CAPS.


  6. “They were merely a small reduction in government’s planned increase in spending. A very small reduction.”

    But, you have to realize, Mr. Stossel, that any downside deviation from the ever-expanding and ever-accelerating increase in federal spending IS a crisis and a tragedy for our political class (including all too many Republicans). You have to understand. Any decrease in private sector economic activity means we have a crisis of insufficient aggregate demand, so we absolutely have no choice but to increase government spending. Any increase in private sector economic activity means we’ve entered into a golden age of prosperity where we owe it to ourselves to increase government spending to share the fruits of our bounty.

  7. — $140,000 to study pig feces in China.

    You’d think they would have all the pig feces they could possibly ever want to study right there in Washington D.C.

    1. Nope, that’s male bovine feces.

    2. Chinese pig feces and American pig feces are completely different!

  8. The problem is that at least 51% of American voters would vote the same way even if you rationally explained what most of us here understand.
    We can preach to the choir until the rest of the crowd have embraced the “freedom” of socialism.
    They aren’t listening! And wouldn’t get it if they were.

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  13. Obama is still trying to drum up sequester fears. According to a report this afternoon in the Daily Rash, the president said his mother-in-law was forced to move out of the White House due to sequestration cut-backs.…

    1. Are you kidding? He was just looking for an excuse.

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