How Congress Sold Us Out
March 5, 2013 by Sam Rolley
For the past several weeks, the word “sequester” has dominated headlines as President Barack Obama and Democratic lawmakers shrieked about the coming doomsday to be brought forth by $85 billion in Federal spending cuts, while Republicans refused to budge on taxes.
Since the sequester officially took hold on Friday, both sides have pledged to create a plan to retroactively reverse the spending cuts, with Democrats vowing that a deal won’t be reached if taxes aren’t raised and Republicans still vehemently fighting the idea of higher taxes. If they don’t come up with a plan, so what?
Obama has been warning for weeks that sequestration will have devastating impacts on everything from American education to public safety to the ease of travel. Meanwhile, defense hawks on both sides of the legislative aisle spent the months advertising premonitions of a vulnerable America if the military-industrial complex is funded by one less red cent.
The Federal government, it seems, is the boy who cried wolf.
Not only did the entire Nation fail to shut down on Friday after sequestration hit; American financial markets hardly even shuddered. The American public has grown accustomed to periodic government-hyped emergencies. And, ever more transparently, these manufactured crises don’t arise from a lack of government funding but remain necessary to whitewash Congressional inability, or unwillingness, to make budget decisions.
The truth about sequester — as evidenced by the White House’s full steam retreat from its previous sensational predictions — is that the mandatory across-the-board cuts are actually quite modest. In fact, over the next six months, government spending will be reduced by a trifling 2.4 percent. And, over the next 10 years, Federal spending under sequester will increase — yes, increase — by $2.4 trillion instead of $2.5 trillion without the mandatory cuts.
The same pattern will emerge in all the areas of spending that government officials have proclaimed as unbearable sacrifices to bloodthirsty, government-collapsing sequestration. Military spending, for example, will increase by 18 percent over the next decade. Some people representing the military apparatus have claimed disdain that a one-time real reduction in spending will reduce U.S. defense capacity to what it was in 2007 under sequestration.
But left unmentioned are the following facts: In 2007, while a troop surge was under way in Iraq and some of the heaviest fighting of the United States’ undeclared military adventures in the Mideast continued, military spending topped out near $600 billion — more than 20 percent of total government spending. Add to that money given to the Department of State to provide aid to countries destabilized by the military activity, and the numbers grow significantly.
Lawmakers are making a big deal over sequestration not because it affects you or me in its current form, but because it affects them. Congress holds Constitutionally granted power over the U.S. budget, and it has so abused this power over the past several decades that lawmakers are willing to hand ever more budgetary control to the executive branch. This is the little-reported facet of the sequester debacle that should most concern average Americans; it is a recipe for tyranny.
Republican lawmakers have decided two things: 1) They cannot publicly give Obama his tax hikes and expect voters not to give them the boot; and 2) they cannot risk losing financial backing from big-money players in the military-industrial complex in upcoming elections.
So instead of forcing a deal that cuts spending, they’ve opted for a plan that is a win-win for all members of the political class. The President has reportedly agreed to sign a continuing resolution that locks in the sequester levels of spending and gives him flexibility to choose how and where to cut spending. So, Republicans don’t have to take the blame for defense spending cuts, and the President can ensure that his corrupt green-energy programs and social welfare initiatives remain intact. Thus, bleeding heart voters for both camps remain — if ignorantly — happy; and special interest donors continue to pump money into the coffers of whatever party will further their cause.
The financial “emergencies” are allowed to happen by design and through clandestine cooperation between both parties to cover up the fact that Congress is far too busy making special deals and campaigning to do its job. With the distraction, lawmakers on both sides are allowed an opportunity to pedal blame and look tough — Republicans by saying to their voters “look, look, we didn’t raise taxes,” in hopes that America forgets the $620 billion in tax hikes to which they agreed to avert the last “emergency” (fiscal cliff) just weeks ago. Democrats emerged victorious in that round of false problems because of the tax increases. (It almost seems as if an election year is approaching, eh?)
Meanwhile, a new precedent has been set by suggesting that the President should have unilateral power to decide where the U.S. should nickel and dime. Obama asserted the other day that he couldn’t force a Congressional deal in the sequester because he is “not a dictator.” He should have said he is not yet a dictator, but Congress is working on fixing that for him and his successors.