Sequestration in Effect, a Dream-Come-True for the GOP--Except...
The debt ceiling deal in August of 2011 called for $900 billion in cuts in discretionary programs over ten years and imposed an additional $1.2 trillion in automatic across-the-board cuts, known as the sequester. The Budget Control Act established a Joint Select Committee, known as the Super Committee, “to draft, vote on by November 23, , and report by December 2… legislation that would reduce projected deficits by at least 1.5 trillion through 2021 beyond the 900 billion generated by the discretionary caps, and create a fast-track process for Congress to consider the Committee’s bill without any amendments,” according to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report to Congress in 2011; “and provide for automatic, across-the-board budget cuts in many programs, if Congress fails to enact Joint Select Committee proposals achieving at least 1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next ten years.” The automatic cuts would be triggered if the committee failed, or if Congress defeated the legislation, or if the President vetoed it.
Needless to say: The Joint Select Committee failed, and President Obama and Congress, since then, have not agreed on a deal to avert it. Therefore, the sequester, after having been kicked down the road by about three months, have come to the fore. “Late on Friday, Obama signed an order that put in effect the across-the-board government spending cuts right away,” wrote Richard Cowan and Alistair Bell of Reuters. “Government agencies will now begin to hack a total of $85 billion from their budgets between Saturday and Oct.1”
Cuts for 2013 are equally divided between defense and domestic programs and include $42.7 billion in defense cuts, $28.7 billion in domestic discretionary cuts, $9.9 billion in Medicare cuts, and $4 billion in mandatory cuts, totaling $85.4 billion, according to The Washington Post. If Congress and the President don’t come with a deal to change it, more will be cut in each year for a decade, totaling $109 billion.
As a result of sequestration, President Obama and many congressional leaders are saying that national security will be put at risk; many employees will be pink-slipped and/or furloughed; research grants will be limited; national parks will be closed; immigration enforcement will be cut; Head Start programs will be cut; and much more. More specifically: For aircraft purchases, the Air Force and Navy will take a $3.5 billion hit; for service, military operations will be cut by $13.5 billion; and for research, the military will take a $6.3 billion cut, according to Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post. The National Institute of Health will be cut by $1.6 billion; the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, by $323 billion; border security, by $581 billion; Immigration enforcement, by $323 million; airport security, by $323 billion; Head Start, by $406 million; and FEMA disaster relief, by $375 million. Other agencies and programs include: Public housing support, FDA, NASA, special education, the Energy Department, the National Science Foundation, and the FBI. The list includes nine more agencies and programs too numerous mention.
The Navy over the weekend announced some cutbacks to deal with sequestration, which includes canceling up to six ships deployments, shutting down Carrier Air Wing 2, and deferring the deployment of the USNS Comfort.
Many people will lose their jobs. Economist Stephen Fuller at George Mason University puts the numbers at 2.14 million, including 325, 693 in the defense sector and 420, 529 in the non-defense sector.
The good news is that most mandatory programs such as Medicaid, Social Security, CHIP, SNAP, child nutrition, SSI and low-income programs, including Temporary Assistance for the Needy and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Programs are exempted from sequestration.
The sad thing about all of this is that many Tea Party and Libertarian Republicans, who were sent to Washington to vizierate the government, have claimed sequestration a victory for the party. They seem to want all the sequestration cuts—and even more. Senator Ran Paul, on national television, said the cuts are not deep enough. “The sequestration cuts are a small step in the right direction,” wrote Janice Westmoreland, local coordinator of the Milledgeville area Tea Party Patriots in The Union-Recorder, “but a far cry from getting our nation’s debt under control.” She called on “our Congressman and Senators to uphold the sequestration law passed by Congress and signed by the President.” The Speaker of the House, John Boehner, as part of his “plan B” passed the Spending Reduction Act of 2012 that replaced the sequester with a variety of spending cuts, including cuts to food stamps, the Affordable Care Act, and Dodd-Frank. Of course, the Senate did not take up the bill. In a temporary replacement for sequestration, Republicans have made it clear that they want no tax increases, no defense cuts, and considerable domestic reductions.
Although the President and Congress say they want to find a way to avoid the Sequester over the next decade, as it is, both have staked out positions that make it unlikely that they can hatch a deal that will fly. If not, the Tea Party and Libertarian elements of the GOP may, indeed, get what they want, but as Psalm 76:15 in the Message: the Bible in Contemporary Language says, “He gave them exactly what they asked for—but along with it they got an empty heart.” An old preacher tagged this text with a subject: “They got what they wanted, but despised what they got.”
In the long run, this may be true of the GOP.