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As Long as We Remember...

February 25, 2013

Sequester is Malpractice

Steven R. Berryman

When a surgeon is time-pressured to operate in an emergency, as in a triage situation, he does not begin to use the scalpel at random; he has a plan, based upon his best practices, and what he learned in medical school.


To hear the Obama Administration’s “chicken little” explanation of the consequences of the financial “sequestration” looming this week, you’d think the sky was falling.


Conjure an image of Drs. Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntyre of M*A*S*H operating away with blind folds on…


A sequester – or forced reduction in spending – is not an inherently bad thing, in fact it’s the opposite of “kicking the can down the road.” Claiming that the most painful consequences of unbudgeted cuts will hit first is the distortion. Accountants and their murky practices alone could forestall that!


I can just hear the accountants: First let’s accrue this amount to that quarter, then….


In reality, of course, the president exaggerates for political leverage, and the opposition pooh-poohs the actual impact of allowing sequestration to happen.


Columnist Bob Woodward – of Watergate fame – reminds us in his new book The Price of Politics that the very concept of sequestration emanated from the White House; you’d never know that now with the abhorrent mainstream media allowing this administration cover, in the opposite of what Mr. Woodward and Carl Bernstein had produced in their Watergate reporting!


What gets lost in the politization is that forcing the reduction in the size of government is an essential and a healthy thing; it’s the only way to reduce our addiction to big spending as a solution to all problems. Government is addicted to discovering new roles for itself each day in a process of continually identifying problems (typically self-created), then identifying itself as the lone solution.


Notable government failures currently include “the war on drugs,” the prison system, regulation of Wall Street, regulation of banking, regulation of energy, and on and on.


Of course, the real problem is one of leadership; necessary adjustments to balancing the people’s budget have been avoided through a conspiracy to not produce any budget. A budget is a plan on how and where to allocate limited resources in the most effective way. It says where the money goes.


You would think they would know that.


What has been systematically avoided is any line-item approach, where department heads project their spending fantasies, and are forced to explain and defend them in some orderly process. Absent this process is the forever-inflation in scope of government, and that’s what we have now – unbridled spending, in a continuum of constant expansion.


In the land where the lobbyist and special interests reign supreme.


The people are most tired of the smoke and mirrors of this entire government malfeasance in forgetting to budget in a cereal malpractice, and then claiming credit for actual accomplishment by considering the reduction of a planned (or unplanned) future expense a win!


Good news citizens: We have just saved you one trillion dollars…by not spending your confiscated wealth as we had planned to in an increase.


Of course, the Tea Party is – and has been – right. Much more than the amount of the planned sequestration could be removed from a budget by line-item, simply based upon the already agreed upon amount of waste, fraud, and abuse, pork, and give-aways. But the failure of our leaders to make any choices by line-item is now coming home to roost.


In Maryland, plus Virginia and Washington, the aggregate impact of a sequestration – over the long haul – would have 10-times the economic impact compared with other states. We will suffer because of the concentration of Department of Defense contractors in the region.


The good news is that many programs could go away without real cost to American preparedness and rational force structure; currently we are still postured to fight the last war, as always.


Do we really want all of the specialized robotic and drone technology in order to primarily spy upon our own people? Somebody has determined that the enemy lies within; scary stuff! Do we really need that second jet engine as an alternate, or was that a senatorial “gift.” Remember the cancelled Crusader Cannon program? It was too heavy to airlift, even in a C-5 Galaxy transport!  Remember the XB-70 Valkyrie Supersonic Bomber, or the original B1a Bomber program? Expensive toys for grown-up boys!


How about one man, one rifle, and a citizen army concept as they have in Switzerland? Or an everyman army as they have in Israel? Do we get our money’s worth in real “security” by bankrupting ourselves, or are there actual out-of-the-box solutions to defense that we refuse to consider out of the politics of the matter?


Operating a government must involve a forced budgetary process involving line-item scrutiny and a justification process; we don’t pay Congress and our Executive branch until they successfully produce one.


Sequester them!


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