Another day, another manufactured crisis.
That seems to be the motto in Washington, D.C., these days. The fight over the impending sequestration cuts is only the latest in a long string of financial and budget crises created by Congress, and politicians in Washington seem more focused on convincing the public who’s to blame for it than actually working to avert the cuts.
The cuts, due to take effect Friday, would cut $85 billion off the federal budget. While that number is relatively small, especially when compared to the size of the budget and the ballooning federal debt, it’s where the cuts take place that has politicians in both parties and economists worried.
The cuts, which were pushed off in the deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, would target two sacred cows in both parties: defense for the Republicans and domestic spending for the Democrats.
The Department of Defense would be perhaps the biggest loser in all of this. It would have to cut around 11 percent of its budget over the next several years, an area that has essentially gone untouched — and in fact supported with more funding — since the Jimmy Carter administration. Many Republicans, and many Democrats, including President Barack Obama, have called on Congress to lay off many of these cuts.
Obama’s position in this is interesting and appears to be a concession to military-friendly Republicans in hopes to squashing the cuts.
Also set to lose: the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture, each set to see billions of dollars in funding disappear. For Democrats, that means seeing funding for K-12 education programs and certain regulations they hold dear vanish and giving Republicans ammo – and possible precedent – for future precedence on higher education funding, an area that has seen drastic cuts in recent decades.
The sequester was designed to get the two sides to come together to reach a long-term, balanced deal on deficit reduction. Instead, though, it appears to have done the opposite, and we’re stuck with the logjams and incompetence we’ve become used to in recent years.
At this point, unless both sides come together on a deal — either for or against the sequester — this is just another example of Washington at its finest.