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March 6, 2013

How I learned to love the sequester

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last Friday, March 1, the much ballyhooed and overhyped “sequester” of the federal budget began. A key and critical provision of the Budget Control Act of 2011, sequestration was signed into law on August 2, 2011 by President Barack Obama.


In August 2011 “bipartisan majorities in both the House of Representatives and Senate voted for sequestration as a mechanism to compel the Congress to act on deficit reduction,” according to a March 1, 2013 Office of Management and Budget memo to Speaker of the House, John A. Boehner (R., OH).


The letter further detailed that “As a result of the Congress's failure to act, the law requires the President to issue a sequestration order today canceling $85 billion in budgetary resources across the Federal Government for FY 2013…”


This latest artificial governance-by-crisis has been unfolding for a number of weeks – err, months. Then, if you will recall, on February 20, The Wall Street Journal reported in an article entitled “Rhetoric Turns Harsh as Budget Cuts Loom,” that…


“President Barack Obama, who has proposed a deficit-reduction strategy that includes curbs on tax breaks for upper-income people…”


Well, by now you know the drill. Find an example of the president’s remarks here, when he spoke at a media event with firefighters, first responders, EMS personnel and police officers… “Are you willing to see a bunch of first responders lose their job because you want to protect some special interest tax loophole?”


The Wall Street Journal called this act of the budget drama, “President Armageddon,” and noted “The Washington Monument ploy,” “The recession scare,” and “A tax increase disguised as ‘tax reform.’”


Actually, to be certain, the idea of sequestration was an idea embraced by President Obama, in part to come to an agreement with Republicans to increase the debt ceiling. The budgetary cuts would automatically go into place by January 2, 2013 if Congress was not able to come to an agreement to cut spending and reduce the budget deficit by January 15, 2012 – remember the New Year’s “Fiscal Cliff” crisis, err, artificial political boondoggle…


In the past the debt ceiling had been raised relatively routinely by Congress. Not much was really said for example when President George W. Bush’s 2008 budget deficit reached a staggering $459 billion.


Oh, that’s right, then-presidential candidate Illinois Sen. Barack Obama decried President Bush’s deficit spending, along with the accompanying rising debt, as irresponsible and unpatriotic… Oh my…


However, by 2011, congressional Republicans used raising the debt ceiling as a negotiating tool to see to it that the tax cuts enacted originally by President Bush were extended.


Several months ago, Congress and the president kicked the can down the road by extending the deadline to March 1, after an agreement was not reached by January 2, 2013. At that point, the “Bush 43 Tax Cuts” that President Obama had agreed to extend in 2011, came to an end, along with the implementation of an assortment of other tax increases.


We were reminded of this last Sunday, when Mitch McConnell, (R., KY), the Senate Majority Leader, said on the CNN: “We are exploding our spending. We've added $6 trillion to the national debt in just four years. We've got to begin to cut spending…


“The modest reduction of 2.4 percent in spending over the next six months is a little more than the average American experienced just two months ago.”


For additional context, Speaker Boehner has observed correctly on a number of occasions, in addition to his remarks to David Gregory on NBC that President Obama got a $650 billion tax increase on January 1. Now is the time for the president to uphold his end of the bargain and cut spending.


An article on Business Insider, “NBC's David Gregory Challenged John Boehner And Told Him His Sequester Talking Points Are 'Just Not True',” observed that Mr. Gregory pushed back, “…noting that President Obama has put forward a plan that is on the White House's website.”


Earlier, on February 26, Speaker Boehner said: “At a press conference with Republican leaders today, House Speaker John Boehner (R., OH) called on the president to stop using the military as a campaign prop to demand more tax hikes and start working with his own Democratic-controlled Senate to act on a credible plan to avert his sequester… ‘You know, Republicans have voted twice to replace the sequester…’”


Taking a step back in time, many will tell you that the White House National Economic Council director, Gene Sperling, originally championed the idea of a sequester in a ploy to force the Republicans to agree to significant tax increases or face draconian cuts to national defense spending.


However, to be specific, sequestration was originally brought to the table by Congressman Jack Kingston, (R., GA) in November 2010.


On November 29, 2010, Representative Kingston was noted in a Wall Street Journal Review & Outlook piece, “The Kingston Brio,” that caught the attention of this writer, “…this week Mr. Kingston will present to Mr. Boehner's Steering Committee a blueprint for action that shows he's given considerable thought to changing the spending culture in Congress. (We're posting his18-page power point at As a spending cut down payment, he has endorsed about $110 billion in rescissions from the fiscal 2011 budget…


“At the heart of his reform plan is restoring the process of automatic spending cuts that prevailed in the late 1980s under the name Gramm-Rudman….”


For now, for me, one thing is for certain, along this winding road, over the years and through the woods, I have come to believe that generational theft needs to be arrested and along the way, I’ve stop worrying and learned to love the sequester bomb.


The sequester is a great start in the correct direction.


. . . . .I’m just saying. . .


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