Get Ready for Lots of Talk About Just How Awful Sequestration Has Really Been


Now that Republicans and Democrats are jawing about a resolution to the government shutdown and impending deadline for the issuance of new government debt, get ready for lots of talk about just how awful the sequestration cuts in the 2011 Budget Control Act have been. And how they must not be allowed to form a new baseline for future government spending because they are killing the hopes and dreams of future generations. Stuff like this:

If Democrats disliked the 2011 Budget Control Act, they disliked its bastard stepchild, the sequester, even more. In his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama calls the sequester cuts: "harsh" and "arbitrary" and warned that they would "devastate priorities like education, energy and medical research" and "cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs."…

The promise of the Obama presidency was not merely that he'd bring Democrats back to power. It was that he'd usher in the first era of truly progressive public policy in decades. But the survival of Obamacare notwithstanding, Obama's impending "victory" in the current standoff moves us further away from, not closer to, that goal.

It's not just that Obama looks likely to accept the sequester cuts as the basis for future budget negotiations. It's that while he's been trying to reopen the government and prevent a debt default, his chances of passing any significant progressive legislation have receded. 

As it happens, the deal supposedly being hatched in the Senate will fund government through January 15, 2014, just before $19 billion in a second round of sequestration cuts kick in. The idea is that this timing will give Democrats time to try and reverse the terrifying specter of spending just $967 billion rather than $986 billion or $1.058 trillion in discretionary dollars. Take a peek at the chart to the upper right, which tracks the impact of sequestration over a 10 year window. The tiny difference should make most people sleep soundly at night. Unless you actually care about the government actually living anywhere close to reality:

Remember, kids, that anytime future increases in government spending are restrained even slightly, a kitten dies. Because despite five straight years of record-high levels of government spending (the feds spent about $3.5 trillion in 2013, which isn't charted above), there just isn't enough money being spent to accomplish truly progressive goals. Pity.