Spinning The Sequester: Obama’s Posh Idea Of ‘Austerity’

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Last week, President Barack Obama commemorated the five-year anniversary of the Nation’s economic dive in a White House speech that managed to excoriate his party opposition on the same day that a crazy man was killing people in a Naval yard only a few miles away.

Obama touched on the shooting, saying “we are confronting yet another mass shooting,” before moving on the real topic at hand: blaming Congressional Republicans for the “austere” budget sequestration — a program of spending cuts (not actual budget cuts, mind you, but spending cuts) that Obama himself originally had proposed.

From the President’s Sept. 16 speech:

The problem is at the moment, Republicans in Congress don’t seem to be focused on how to grow the economy and build the middle class. I say “at the moment” because I’m still hoping that a light bulb goes off here.

So far, their budget ideas revolve primarily around even deeper cuts to education, even deeper cuts that would gut America’s scientific research and development, even deeper cuts to America’s infrastructure investment — our roads, our bridges, our schools, our energy grid…

…Instead of making necessary changes with a scalpel, so far at least, Republicans have chosen to leave in place the so-called sequester cuts that have cost jobs, harmed growth, are hurting our military readiness. And top independent economists say this has been a big drag on our recovery this year. Our economy is not growing as fast as it should and we’re not creating as many jobs as we should, because the sequester is in place. That’s not my opinion. That’s the opinion of independent economists.

The sequester makes it harder to do what’s required to boost wages for American workers, because the economy is still slack. So if Republicans want the economy to grow faster, create more jobs faster, they should want to get rid of it. It’s irresponsible to keep it in place.

And if Congress is serious about wanting to grow the economy faster and creating jobs faster, the first order of business must be to pass a sensible budget that replaces the sequester with a balanced plan that is both fiscally sound and funds the investments like education and basic research and infrastructure that we need to grow. This is not asking too much.

The fallacy of Obama’s assertion that it’s “irresponsible” for government to spend money less quickly than he’d like is twofold:

  • First, Obama lives in a closed system of liberal thinking on fiscal policy, one that can conceive of government only in terms of its presence in — not its absence from — every phase of social enterprise. If he truly believes the sequester is a bloodletting of government-supported programs, imagine the culture shock he’d experience if he woke from a long sleep to find American government operating at Tea Party scale.
  • Second, it’s a lie that sequestration is slowing down anything. The juggernaut of government spending, across a kaleidoscope of programs (most of which won’t be familiar to average Americans who think of Federal spending in terms of militaries, Interstate highways, foreign relations, ports, air travel and interstate commerce), is running with as much momentum as any tax-and-spend liberal could hope for.

Reason has culled a list of budget entries published in the Federal Register dating back to March 1, when the sequester first went into effect. It’s 17,679 items long, and it’s only a small part of what the government has authorized since that time. Check it out here.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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