The sky is falling, the sky is falling... or so the White House will have us believe; unless Congress comes to an agreement that will prevent the “devastating” cuts, which are scheduled to go into effect next week. Only in Washington is a "spending cut" defined as a marginally less spectacular spending increase.
Prior to this thing called “sequestration,” which I had never heard of before in all my years in politics, we had fiscal cliffs, debt ceiling power plays and other ominous scare tactics to force our venerable elected officials into budget agreements.
Sequestration for 2013 amounts to $85.3 billion out of a $3,600 billion budget; that is an insignificant 2.4 percent out of total spending.
- Rosario Marin, Former U.S. Treasurer
Interestingly enough, there has always been a lot of posturing and a lot of name-calling, and ALWAYS at the last possible moment the politicians save the day, and forge an agreement. So as the passive audiences that we are, we have been trained to watch the theatrics knowing full well that there will be a happy ending to the soap opera and everyone will go back to their daily routines. Disaster averted, the U.S. voters will go on with their lives.
The president calls these games "fabricated crises." But a funny thing happened; it was discovered that this sequestration was the fabricated brainchild of Jack Lew, who at the time was the Budget Director for the White House and is now the nominated Treasury Secretary.
Lew mentioned it to Senator Harry Reid, right before the presidential campaign was in full gear, as the only way out of the mess they were in. The idea was to come up with a set of cuts that would be so unsavory to both Democrats and Republicans that they would have no choice but to reach an agreement on the budget, so they all agreed to punt the ball to the following year.
I do have to confess that, at that time, I fell for it myself. This latest trick fooled me too! It was sold as the best way to prevent financial disaster. Well, a few months later and two disasters averted, I went back and figured out that we have all been taken for a ride, again.
I know most Americans' eyes glaze over when we talk about billions and trillions of dollars. But it is not that difficult. Sequestration for 2013 amounts to $85.3 billion out of a $3,600 billion budget; that is an insignificant 2.4 percent out of total spending. Forgotten in all this discussion is that we are in line to borrow another trillion dollars this year.
To make it simpler, let’s just say that if a family’s annual budget was $36,000, reducing $853 of their annual spending wouldn’t be so hard to accomplish. Yes, there will be a bit of belt-tightening, but families have been doing that all along. We can figure it out, so should Congress.
Yet, according to our president, everything will come to a screeching halt if we do not spend those $85.3 billion: TSA lines will be a nightmare, fire and police will be unable to respond, teachers will be laid off, millions of seniors would not receive meals, and on and on and on…
Well, Chicken Little, the sky is not going to fall.
Rosario Marin served as the 41st U.S. Treasurer under President George W. Bush. She is the author of "Leading Between Two Worlds Lessons" from the first Mexican-born Treasurer of the United States.