Talk Business Magazine - Sequestration Shows It's Time For A Spending Intervention

Op-Ed

By:  Tim Griffin
Date: March 13, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

By Congressman Tim Griffin

Nearly a year ago, on May 10, 2012, House Republicans passed a bill to replace President Obama's sequester idea with targeted spending cuts. Not a single Democrat supported it.

Unfortunately, because Democrats in the Senate did nothing with our bill--or the two others we passed--and President Obama never offered his own plan, sequestration began March 1.

The sequester was included in the Budget Control Act of 2011 because President Obama insisted on it, despite his recent attempts to pretend otherwise. That bill was a compromise that raised the debt ceiling and created a "supercommittee" to work out significant spending reforms. Sequestration was an incentive to agree: failure would trigger automatic, across-the-board spending cuts, half of them impacting national defense.

Those who long for compromise in Washington should take note: sequestration is a prime example of it. When House Republicans compromised with President Obama and voted for the Budget Control Act--as many urged them to do--it inevitably included some of his bad ideas. Sequestration disproportionately targets our military and threatens jobs. There are smarter ways to reform spending and reduce the deficit. Republicans passed three bills in 2012--H.R. 5652 on May 10, H.R. 6365 on September 13 and H.R. 6684 on December 20--to replace sequestration with common-sense savings.

Why would President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid oppose our replacement bills? Because the President is obsessed with raising taxes, and Washington Democrats are in denial about their spending addiction.

You've probably seen President Obama on TV, trying to convince hardworking taxpayers to let Washington take even more of their money. Like most Arkansans, I'm not buying it. Workers' paychecks have shrunk enough already.

Sadly, the debate over President Obama's sequester has often sounded like just another blame game between the White House and Congress. Obviously, not all of President Obama's ideas are bad, but the facts are important, especially when he makes claims that simply aren't true.

On October 22, 2012, President Obama claimed, "the sequester is not something that I proposed, it's something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen." Less than four months later, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney contradicted the President, saying, "The sequester was one of the ideas put forward, yes, by the President's team." Democratic Senator Max Baucus, the Finance Committee's Chairman, agreed, saying, "The White House recommended it, frankly, back in August 2011." Of course, journalist Bob Woodward had already identified the sequester suggester on page 326 of his book, The Price of Politics--which Carney acknowledged February 19: "The sequesterÂ…as has been reported, it was an idea that the White House put forward."

Apparently, President Obama was for sequestration before he was against it. Less than a year before promising "it will not happen," he pledged to "veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending."

Now he says the cuts would be a disaster and claims he has a plan to replace them. But only in Washington could trimming spending be twisted into tax hikes. How will that help the economy or save America's credit rating from another downgrade?

Here's the truth: President Obama has no real plan--only vague calls for higher taxes and a coordinated, poll-tested political attack. After all, if he has a specific plan, why haven't Senate Democrats voted on it?

Take it from Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Douglas Elmendorf, who was asked a couple weeks ago if CBO had calculated the President's plan. No, he said, "We have not received a specific proposal."

Translation: when it comes to converting President Obama's rhetoric about a "balanced approach" into actual arithmetic, there are no real numbers to crunch.

CBO projects the federal government will rake in record tax revenue this year: $2.7 trillion. Even after sequestration, it will also set a new spending record: $3.553 trillion. (If you spent $1,000 every second, it'd take 111 years to spend $3.553 trillion.) Much of that money fuels state government spending. Many states have balanced budgets on paper but in reality are entirely dependent on Uncle Sam.

Sequestration trims federal spending by $85 billion this year, returning us to 2008 levels. The cut is less than three percent of the entire budget. If we can't even cut three cents from every dollar Washington spends, how will we pay off our $16.4 trillion national credit card bill? The coming Debt Depression will make sequester cuts looks like child's play.

It's time for a spending intervention. With President Obama and Harry Reid ignoring opportunities to eliminate waste and itching to increase taxes, House Republicans are simply not interested in kicking the can down the road again. We must do the right thing now. We owe it to our kids and grandkids, who will ultimately pay for our irresponsibility.