The hysteria in Washington over sequestration is both strange and amusing. The president would like us to believe that cutting just over 2% of our $3.5 trillion budget this year will leave kids without vaccines, meat without inspectors, planes without air traffic control and streets filled with criminals and no police to stop them. Republicans, on the other hand, are wasting time blaming President Obama for spending cuts—yes, the same man who is distinguished as the only president to run a trillion dollar budget deficit, and to do so four years in a row.
Frankly, the sequester doesn’t do much to stop the growth of spending and government. Let’s say you gain 10 pounds per year, but your 2013 resolution is to only gain 9.8 pounds. You’re not getting smaller; you’re just growing a little slower. The president has chosen to make a mini diet sound apocalyptic, even as our country is nearly $17 trillion in debt.
From a broader view, with sequestration in effect, overall federal spending this year will still exceed what was spent in 2010. I do not remember the country being on the verge of collapse in 2010 due to a shortage of federal funding. In fact, I remember the American people sweeping Republicans into control of the U.S. House because they were appalled by the president’s gross expansion of government and mismanagement of public finances.
On average, President Obama spends $1.1 trillion more per year than President George W. Bush. Remember that the Obama Administration dramatically increased federal spending during the financial crisis. The trillion dollar stimulus of 2009 was not timely, targeted or temporary as advertised—it became the status quo. Total federal spending has never declined to pre-stimulus levels. But now, whenever spending reductions come to the fore, the president rolls out scary sounding statistics and warns of grave consequences. We must remember that these inflated funding levels were never supposed to be permanent, and to try to make them so through fear and misinformation is a betrayal of the public trust.
The deficits and debt from the Obama years are the real danger to our country, particularly to future generations. This year we will lose $224 billion of your tax dollars in debt interest payments to China and elsewhere. That amount is nearly three times the size of the sequester, or the equivalent of what the federal government spends on K-12 education and veterans’ benefits combined. Our debt interest payments are projected to increase 200% by the end of the decade. All the Obama tax increases in the world cannot solve such a terrible case of overspending.
Although the sequester shaves a tiny portion off the federal budget, most agree that the across-the-board method is unwise. It doesn’t make sense to cut valuable military programs and wasteful activities by the same percentage. We should just zero-out, or eliminate, the wasteful programs. I’ve joined House Republicans in passing two bills to make the cuts smarter and targeted, but the president and the Senate Democrats have ignored us, demanding more tax increases on top of the $600 billion plus tax hike they imposed in January.
The American people should neither be fooled nor bullied by the president’s latest campaign to raid our wallets. You are not the problem. No one should be talking about tax increases when the government wastes $115 billion on improper payments as it did in 2011. No one should demand that you send more of your paycheck to Washington to fund the $2.2 billion federal program for free cell phones. And it is shameful for the president to say Americans do not pay their fair share when the government squanders money on overlapping projects like our 47 different job training programs and 94 different green building initiatives. There is enough federal waste to clog every toilet in Washington.
It would be a shame to see so much wasteful spending continue as worthy programs get hit by the across-the-board cuts. But, if the president continues to reject a smarter approach and insist on more tax increases, then sequestration will go forward. And, while it’s early yet, I predict the United States will survive the 2% budget cut.
Tom Graves, a Republican, represents Georgia in Congress and serves on the House Appropriations Committee.