Sequestration may be necessary

After months of doomsday predictions regarding the imminent enactment of across-the-board spending cuts, the sequester is finally set to go into effect this Friday.

The emergency cuts, which were part of a deal struck between Congress and President Barack Obama in 2011 to extend the United States’ borrowing authority and cut the budget deficit, will automatically trigger $85 billion in cuts set to affect areas of government spending from border patrol to education to defense.

Oddly, what has received much of the attention regarding this issue in the past few days is a warning by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about the potential impact of sequestration cuts on air travel, which he said could cause travelers to face longer flight delays and lines at security checkpoints as a result of cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Mollie Berg | Daily Trojan

Mollie Berg | Daily Trojan

Tough luck. Such scare tactics should not distract from the necessity of cutting excessive government spending and getting on track toward a sustainable and responsible federal budget. In fact, austerity measures resulting from the sequester might be just what lawmakers need to incentivize fiscal responsibility in the future.

LaHood was only one of many leaders to urge lawmakers to come to an agreement on an emergency plan, proposed by Senate Democrats, to avoid sequestration. The plan would raise taxes on the rich, slash federal agriculture subsidies and reduce defense spending after American troops fully withdraw from Afghanistan.

Senate Republicans, however, are refusing to accept any plan that increases taxes following their January concession to increase tax revenue for top-income brackets — a concession they made as part of a deal to avoid the most negative effects of the fiscal cliff.   Though Democrats have the right idea regarding the cuts, the plan is unacceptable because of the proposition to increase revenue by slapping the rich with even higher taxes. Alleviating the budget crisis by punishing top-income earners for having more wealth is not only patently unfair and counterproductive to economic growth, but also ignores the root cause of the problem: irresponsible, wasteful government spending.

The only answer? Smart spending cuts across the board before we get to the point of automatic trigger cuts. Recognizing superfluous expenditures that are not absolutely vital to the function of government or national security is a good place to start cutting.

In an interview with MSNBC, LaHood denounced the sequester as taking a “meat ax approach” to the fiscal crisis. He used this rhetoric as part of a plug for the Democrats’ proposed plan, stating that it would “[save] the money that needs to be saved.”

Unfortunately, it is no longer about “saving” money. That would imply that the government has money to save. The budget deficit at the end of fiscal year 2012 was a staggering $1.1 trillion, an amount that constitutes over 70 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. According to the Congressional Budget Office, such a high percentage has not been seen since 1950.

These statistics reflect a dire situation, and, as such, an extreme response might be the best thing for moving toward a lasting solution. The sequester is not a sudden and unexpected political phenomenon. It has been a long time coming and is an unfortunate consequence of lawmakers’ failure to close our obscene federal budget deficit. Continuing to kick the proverbial can down the road is no longer an option, and lawmakers should use this as motivation to work toward a long-term budget solution.

It is easy for people to forget the need to fix the fiscal crisis if the government continues to enact 11th-hour budget deals, but the cuts that will come with sequestration will bring the urgency of the situation to the forefront of national discourse. Hopefully, this discourse will prompt the decisive action on this issue that has been so conspicuously absent in Washington during the past couple of years.


Sarah Cueva is a junior majoring in Middle East studies and political science. Her column “Homeland” runs Wednesdays.


5 replies
  1. Liberty Minded
    Liberty Minded says:

    Every dollar that the federal government spends comes from us – one way or another. The more the government spends, the more it MUST take from others.

    Nearly every function that the government does now was done by non-government entities or not deemed necessary years ago. For over 100 the USA managed without income taxes, medicare, social security, a large military, EPA, IRS, FBI, Dept of Education, Dept of Energy, NASA, TSA…

    In reality, all the functions of government are done by real people since the government is composed of people. Hmmm, should we allow other groups to compete for the government’s functions? Are the government functions so necessary that we need to grant monopolies and force people to use the services? Is the government doing such a great job that we should give it a RAISE? Are the current regulators falling down on the job? Should we FIRE the government?

    If government does less, spends less, the rest of us will have more…

  2. Tommy
    Tommy says:

    “The budget deficit at the end of fiscal year 2012 was a staggering $1.1 trillion, an amount that constitutes over 70 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. ”

    USA GDP 2012 = $15.7 trillion
    Deficit = $1.1 trillion

    1.1/15.7 = 7 percent, Not 70

  3. Dan Killam
    Dan Killam says:

    “…superfluous expenditures that are not absolutely vital to the function of government or national security”

    I find it hard to see how NIH and NSF aren’t vital functions of government. They account for the vast majority of basic research funding in most fields, particularly medical research. As far as national security, I’m glad you brought that up because the civilian side of the DOD, which IS VITAL to the combat preparedness of our nation, will be devastated by these cuts.

    It’s amusing that you’re still firmly in the austerity school of thought, when it has become patently clear how those policies have turned out in Europe. They’re sliding back into recession and worsening their own problems. Yet you advocate making the same destructive mistake.

    • Indeed!
      Indeed! says:

      I think it being that we spend more than (I forget how many) x countries combined on national security, we can afford some cuts. I’d rather take a mild dosage of pain/austerity now than end up at rock bottom like Greece, with interest rates on national debt about 16% and crawling on hands and knees to the IMF for a loan to stay solvent. Yeah, austerity is tough but you know what, we can’t afford to keep spending the way we are anymore. Suck it up

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