Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sequestration and the Washington Monument Ploy

The headings of today's e-mail brought it to my mind too, but Congressman Morgan Griffith was closer to the action and called it first: Sequestration will lead to deliberate efforts, from those who'd prefer to raise taxes and spend more money, to use the Washington Monument Ploy, target the most popular uses of federal funding for cuts, "cause pain"...From Morgan Griffith's newsletter:

"The SequesterIn August 2011, the President, the House of Representatives, and the Senate reached a deal to raise the debt ceiling and, in exchange for the House agreeing to raise the debt ceiling, there would be cuts to Washington spending. If an agreement to cut Washington spending could not be reached, then there would be automatic, blind, across the board cuts in 2013. These automatic cuts are called “Sequestration.”

The small group of House and Senate leaders charged with reaching an agreement by the end of 2011 failed to do so.

The House tried to avoid the automatic Sequestration cuts by passing smarter, targeted cuts not once, but twice in 2012. Neither the President or the Senate ever proposed alternative cuts. To be fair, a few weeks back they came out with a plan that changed the deal to tax increases and some cuts. But that is not the deal made in 2011 with the American people and the House.

Now we have Sequestration.

In the first year, the Sequestration cuts are expected to be roughly $85 billion nationwide, which is approximately 2.3 percent of what the government spent last year.

Like many of you, I am concerned about our nation’s debt and am frustrated by Washington’s lack of spending discipline. I generally don’t care for cutting across the board, and prefer smarter, targeted cuts instead. Having blind cuts in the deal is one of the reasons I did not vote for Sequestration in 2011.

Administration officials and some in the media have been speculating on the impact that the Sequester may have. Some of these speculations seem to be overstated, overblown, or just plain wrong.

As David Gergen, a former advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton, wrote last week: “… This sounds suspiciously like the ‘Washington Monument syndrome’: the tendency of federal bureaucrats faced with budget cuts to shut down the most visible services first, causing screams and forcing the cuts to be rescinded.”

Earlier this week on Jim Bohannon’s America in the Morning radio show on the Dial Global Radio Network, economist and University of Maryland professor Dr. Peter Morici said that President Obama “is purposely imposing pain on the American people,” and that “the President could manage these cuts in a way that this didn’t happen, because it’s really not all that much money. But he’s choosing to punish the American people because he’s not getting the [his sic] way. What we’re seeing is a Presidential tantrum.”

Again, these cuts make up roughly 2.3 percent of what the government spent last year. In programs where the President authorizes cuts that may be too severe, we will have to go back and make targeted cuts elsewhere in order to reinstate the necessary funding. Among programs I am particularly concerned about are those relating to children and public safety.

If we have gotten to the point where the federal government cannot responsibly cut 2.3 percent of spending, then we are worse off than I thought we were.

Congress must share in the exercise of tightening our belts. Just since I’ve come to Congress two years ago and with the Sequester in effect, my office budget will have been cut by nearly 16 percent. I am still able to provide constituent services, perform legislative duties, and communicate with residents of the 9th District.

As we move forward, I remain willing to look at smarter, targeted cuts. But the bottom line is this: we need a disciplined spending reduction plan in order to decrease our deficits and our more than $16 trillion national debt. Trimming our deficits and debt will encourage investment in the economy, create jobs, and lessen the burden on future generations. "