Sequester, Schmequester, Just So Long as the Government Gets to Spend More Money


And it does! Peter Klein notes that our media is largely failing those Americans who actually might care to understand what is actually happening with government spending, and why, and provides a tight explanation of the very basics everyone should understand, but doesn't seem to:

Bureaucracy illustration
Photo credit: Harald Groven / / CC BY-SA

The Narrative is that sequestration imposes large and dangerous cuts — $85 billion, a Really Big Number! — to essential government services, and that the public reaction should be outrage at the President and Congress (mostly Congressional Republicans) for failing to "cut a deal."….In virtually none of these stories will you find any basic facts about the budget, which are easily found on the CBO's website, e.g.:

  • Sequestration reduces the rate of increase in federal spending. It does not cut a penny of actual (nominal) spending. 
  • The CBO's estimate of the reduction in increased spending between 2012 and 2013 is $43 billion, not $85 billion.
  • Total federal spending in 2012 was $3.53 trillion. The President's budget request for 2013 was $3.59 trillion, an increase of $68 billion (about 2%). Under sequestration, total federal spending in 2013 will be $3.55 trillion, an increase of only $25 billion (a little less than 1%). 
  • Did you catch that? Under sequestration, total federal spending goes up, just by less than it would have gone up without sequestration. This is what the Narrative calls a "cut" in spending!….
  • Of course, these are nominal figures. In real terms, expenditures could go down, depending on the rate of inflation. Even so, the cuts would be tiny — 1 or 2%.
  • The news media also talk a lot about "debt reduction," but what they mean is a reduction in the rate at which the debt increases….

Reason, for all your sequester needs.

NEXT: Massachusetts Passes Health Care Price Controls. Costs Rise Anyway.

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  1. The media mindlessly parroting Democrat talking points? That’s not isolated to the topic of sequestration.

    1. Peter Klein notes that our media is largely failing those Americans who actually might care to understand what is actually happening with government spending

      I think the last election proved that most Amercians simply do not care to understand what is actually happening with government spending.

      1. I think that every election since I was old enough to pay attention proved that.

  2. Again, FACTS ARE NOT IMPORTANT. Facts involve math, which is hard. Narratives must be easy, so math is disqualified.

    1. Were the math we’re dealing here actually complex (or even mildly challenging to 7th graders algebra), I might understand the “MATH IS HARD” excuse. This is simple arithmetic that anyone who knows how to count change (fortunately, the EBT card is removing such nuisances from society!) can perform.

      The issue here isn’t that the people parroting this lie are incapable of understanding it nor do they think their readers and viewers are incapable of understanding it, they are just fucking lying.


        1. And the expiration date on my credit card isn’t until May. (Yes, I have heard someone say that.)

    2. “”I really have no idea how money works or budgets work”

      1. They may not know, but they sure as fuck don’t care. Pushing the TEAM narrative is the only thing that matters. The only thing. These people have their marching orders, and by golly they’re going to obey them.



  5. But, teh CHILDREN!

  6. While technically what you say is true, the parts of the budget that sequestration affects(discretionary spending) actually are projected to go down in nominal terms: From 1,285B in 2012 to 1,213B in 2013 and 1,170B in 2014. That’s a 9% bonafide real actual cut in spending in the usual sense of the term.

    1. Yes, but why should this matter? If your boss reduces your year-end bonus, but increases your base salary, such that your overall compensation goes up, would you say you got a pay cut?

      The focus on reductions in discretionary spending obscures the fact that “mandatory” spending is going up, and fast. There are no “sweeping cuts” in spending, just cuts to small parts of the budget, with more-than-offsetting increases in other parts of the budget.

      1. If my boss increases my co-workers salary by $1,000 and cuts mine by $1,000, my boss is spending the same amount as last year but I gotta believe I got a pay cut.

        That said, there’s no reason the co-worker can’t also take a cut.

        1. If the federal government were serious about the harshness of the cuts, they’d actually make real cuts to the programs which aren’t needed… the literally thousands of programs which aren’t needed, then hand those dollars to the mission-critical agencies.

          But when the Congress refuses to touch the Cowboy Poet budget, you begin to realize just how screwed we are.

          Unfortunately, cutting the non-essential stuff and pushing it back into the essential stuff (of course, the word “essential” is entirely arguable) would require that legislators actually engage in a process called ‘budgeting’.

      2. The reporting on fiscal issues always works this way. So many times, pundits or pols will complain about “slashing spending” or “sweeping cuts” when no such thing is occurring. A reduction in the increase is a concept that apparently is too hard for the public to understand.

        ” more-than-offsetting increases in other parts of the budget.”

        While this is true, looking at the categories of mandatory spending that are increasing for future budgets are the areas of government outlays that are the most difficult (politically speaking) to contain. Social Security, Health Care, pensions, veterans. These are the areas that really need focus, the projects for Medicare alone are enough to make any budget office bureaucrat go home and live with his parents.

  7. I am all for making the federal government and media look like a bunch of whining fools, but lets me honest here, Brian. Of course you are right that no decrease in nominal spending will occur for fiscal 2013. But discretionary outlays will be less. See the document you reference. 1,285 in 2012 and 1,213 in 2013. Those in the media who are doing their jobs are sure to mention that the reduction is only apparent when you look at discretionary spending in isolation. That said, this whole CBO baseline budget projection document is really depressing. Rand Paul said it well, “If we cannot do this little bit … how are we ever going to balance the budget?”

    1. who cares about balancing the budget. I want it slashed to the bone.

      1. Baby steps califernian. What you want is not relevant. What is feasible is what matters.

        1. Giant steps when increasing the deficit/debt, baby steps when (supposedly) cutting it?

        2. Cutting cowboy poetry, we’re told, is not ‘feasible’. So if I’m going to get 110 mm howitzer shells rained on my head for suggesting cutting cowboy poets, I might as well start asking for real, detectable cuts. And what neoteny says below.

          It’s never “unrealistic” to talk about huge, massive spending sprees (*stimulus*TARP*cough*), but asking for a tiny, teensy weensy cut gets discussed, and everyone puts up their hands in that ‘whoa, whoa’ fashion and starts shouting, “Be REASONABLE!”

  8. if the media were to explain what it happening, the public might look at Obama as the fool that he is for trying to scare the shit out of people over a lie.

  9. Who’s the dude with the beard?

  10. Our media is largely failing those Americans who actually might care to understand what is actually happening with government spending

    Our media is largely failing Americans who want to understand ANYTHING. I just read an article yesterday through 24/7 that said THIS:

    That raises the possibility of renewing a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, both of which have been used in recent mass shootings.

    That’s 3 or 4 things wrong in one sentence, depending on how you count it. It continues to use the term “assault rifle” throughout the piece.

    The media at large isn’t interested in informing ANYONE.

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