Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Dark Side of Sequestration

What exactly is the sequester, where did it come from and how does it impact federal spending? Sequestration will eliminate $85 billion in new spending in 2013 and reduce total spending from $3.6 trillion to $3.5 trillion, a reduction of 2.4%.

Social Security is exempted, and cuts to Medicare are limited; programs like defense and investments in research and education face steeper cuts. Because the sequester does not reform the real drivers of our long-term debt, it doesn't solve our long-term problem.

Furthermore, under sequester federal agencies cannot protect high-priority, well-run programs and eliminate wasteful, inefficient ones. Americans know this is not the best way to manage the federal government. The Peterson Foundation's February 2013 Fiscal Confidence Index confirms that Americans seek better solutions to our debt and deficit problems.

Three quarters of Americans say they want Washington to replace the sequester and agree instead on a long-term debt plan now to help improve the economy.

Nearly everyone agrees that sequestration is not a good way to manage the budget. People on both sides of the aisle have identified flaws in the sequester process, including:

1) By enacting across-the-board cuts, federal agencies cannot protect high-priority, efficient, and well-run programs or eliminate wasteful and inefficient programs. This is not the best way to manage the federal government.

2) By focusing the vast majority of cuts on discretionary spending, the sequester does not reform the real drivers of our long-term deficits. Social Security and health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid will continue to drive spending growth, and revenues will continue to fall short of our needs. In fact, even without the upcoming automatic spending reductions, discretionary spending is already on pace to decline as a percentage of our economy over time. Furthermore, discretionary spending includes investments in education, research, and infrastructure — all areas that can be helpful to future economic growth.

3) The reductions are coming at a time when the economic recovery is still fragile. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the economy will grow more slowly in 2013 — 1.4 percent instead of 2.0 percent — due to sequestration.

Regardless of what happens with the sequester March 1, the Peterson Foundation believes that the best way to solve our long-term fiscal challenges is for both parties to agree on a comprehensive plan that addresses the real drivers of long-term debt. As a country, we can stabilize long-term debt as a share of our economy and put it on a downward path, while still protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

Jedi in Chief 

President Barack Obama crossed a final frontier in a briefing to journalists after a crucial last-minute budget cuts meeting, according to Mirror.

He turned to the dark side when explaining why he would use Secret Service agents to keep politicians from leaving until everyone had agreed on a way forward.

And he told reporters: "I am not a dictator. I'm the president," adding that he would not do a "Jedi mind meld" to persuade key people "to do what's right".

But Jedis are from Star Wars, while mind-melds happened on Star Trek - and his mix-up offended fans of both sci-fi series.

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