I’m a Democrat. I’m a liberal. I’m also a Federal employee. However, I’m also increasingly thinking that it wouldn’t be that bad of a thing if the automatic spending cuts in the “sequester” are allowed to take effect.
It really isn’t a lot of fun trying to manage a project right now in the Federal government. Uncertainties over budgets make it incredibly difficult to make even short-term plans, much less longer-term plans. Agencies are already bracing themselves for cuts, so “frills” like travel, hiring, or needed equipment are increasingly difficult to get approved. If the sequester happens, nearly all programs and agencies funded through discretionary spending will be cut by 8.4%. That’s a big number, especially given that we’re already several months into the Federal government’s fiscal year. It will have a real, and very painful impact on agencies, including mine.
And still, I say…let it happen. Unlike the idealogues who run the Republican party, even as a very liberal Democrat, I’m quite pragmatic about the deficit. Republicans say that it has to be managed ONLY through budget cutting, a ridiculous, and frankly, quite impossible task. Democrats, on the other hand, have shown they are much more realistic on the deficit, having already agreed to very signficant budget cuts as part of the debt limit deal last year, and putting more on the table in the attempt to reach a “Grand Bargain” on the sequester and deficit. But Democrats have been balanced, realizing it’s impossible to cut deficits without also raising revenue.
It’s that “balanced” view that leads me to believe the sequester isn’t necessarily a horrible thing. There has to be a balanced and pragmatic approach to cutting the deficit. A VERY big part of that has to be a realistic view of the Defense budget. We spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined, but yet Defense cuts have been generally taboo for Republicans. In the Sequester, Defense takes an unprecedented 9.2% cut. If negotiations to avoid the sequester occur, you can bet the farm that Republicans won’t agree to anything unless it drastically decreases the amount of Defense cuts. The sequester may be the ONLY mechanism that finally gets the U.S. to cut its bloated defense department. The sequester may be the ONLY mechanism that gets the U.S. to take a more realistic view on the role of the U.S. military in the 21st century.
There are also some political advantages to Democrats for allowing the sequester to happen. Republicans have only ONE party message, one platform…CUT GOVERNMENT. They don’t even have a plan for WHAT to cut, their only message in the last several years is to cut, cut, cut, and when asked about details, they hem and haw, and lately, have even had the gall to say that it’s up to DEMOCRATS to decide what to cut. It’s a ridiculous platform to begin with, but given the hollowness of the Republican party and COMPLETE lack of any other party message, if the sequester is allowed to happen, Republicans are suddenly left without ANY party message. Democrats would have already agree to billions of dollars of cuts last year’s debt ceiling negotiations. Massive cuts would occur with the sequester. Suddenly, the ONLY message that Republicans seem to have is irrelevant.
As I said, cuts would hurt, and not just for those of us in the Federal government. It’s a horrible time to cut spending, given that the economy is finally just getting back on its feet. Economists have stated the sequester would likely reduce GDP by a full percentage point for the next few quarters.
But the pragmatic side of me states that across-the-board spending cuts would force agencies to streamline, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The pragmatic side of me says a short-term hit to the economy is worth it, IF it gets the U.S. to take a more realistic look at our military spending.
Sequester? Just let it happen…