February 27, 2013
The debate in Washington this week has focused on the mandatory spending cuts, known as sequestration, that go into effect Friday. To hear the media and the White House describe it, the cuts will be “massive.” But are these cuts really that massive?
No. “Federal spending will explode from $3.6 trillion to $6 trillion over the next 10 years, but the much-maligned sequester will cut only 2.4 percent of this spending,” The Heritage Foundation’s T. Elliot Gaiser explains.
The sequester doesn’t gut key social programs
The Obama administration would have you believe it’s coming from “vital” social programs. But, as Gaiser explains,
sequestration leaves the largest component of federal spending—entitlements—nearly untouched. Instead, it falls most heavily on national defense, with 50 percent of sequestration cuts impacting national security. Thirty-five percent would impact non-defense discretionary spending. Less than 15 percent would fall on mandatory spending, which consumes 62 percent of the federal budget.
The sequester won’t force airport delays
Liberals also claim that the sequester will lead to massive inconvenience as budgets are slashed at agencies like the TSA and FAA, Gaiser explains with Heritage’s Jason Lloyd:
President Obama claims that unless Congress raises taxes to undo the imminent automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would be forced to reduce security measures, leaving travelers and the airways vulnerable and increasing wait times at airports.
But there are ways to economize that don’t involve core responsibilities, for example trimming non-essential budget items. Gaiser and Lloyd point out, for example, that the TSA has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars: “The TSA has a warehouse in Dallas, Texas, where 5,700 pieces of unused security equipment sit in storage. The dormant equipment is worth $184 million.”
The sequester won’t lay off teachers
President Obama has also claimed that our nation’s children will be at risk of a poor education if the cuts go through:
“[o]ur ability to teach our kids the skills they’ll need for the jobs of the future would be put at risk…70,000 young children would be kicked off Head Start, 10,000 teacher jobs would be put at risk, and funding for up to 7,200 special education teachers, aides, and staff could be cut.”
No federal education program operated by the Department of Education directly funds teacher salaries—this is a state and local responsibility. Further, there are a multitude of ineffective and duplicative programs that could—and should—be cut, saving billions of dollars annually and restoring state and local education decision-making authority…
Washington has not spent federal taxpayer money judiciously on education. Real education reform would save billions of dollars, while improving children’s educational opportunities by empowering states and parents.
But the sequester will affect national defense
The sequester will affect our nation’s ability to protect itself, however:
National defense, unlike most other discretionary programs, is a central constitutional duty and today represents only 17 percent of the budget. Yet nearly half of the Congress-mandated sequestration cuts—$492 billion—would come from defense. These across-the-board cuts threaten our nation’s defense capability.
Congress should follow through with the sequester
The United States needs to cut spending. And as Heritage’s Amy Payne notes, the sequester is better than many of the alternatives:
It would be better to replace them with smarter cuts, but the reality is that Washington has to start cutting spending now. Real program reforms and a balanced budget are the only way to solve our continuing fiscal crises. So it is critical that Congress keep its word and follow through on these spending cuts to prove it is serious about bringing our budget into balance over the next 10 years.
Do you believe budget cuts are needed? And if so, what should be cut?