Paul W. Barada
How many of us really understand what “sequestration” means? The media has been overflowing with commentary about the good or the evil that will be caused by sequestration. It all starts with the federal budget. Technically, sequestration means “the act or process of legally confiscating somebody’s property until a debt that person owes is paid…” So, what’s going on with regard to the federal budget is withholding part of it ever year over the next 10 years until the national debt is paid, or at least reduced significantly.
In 2012, the administration’s budget request included $2.627 trillion dollars in anticipated revenues and $3.729 trillion dollars in expenditures. Obviously, the proposal was to spend $1.101 trillion dollars more than the government expected to receive in revenue, which would increase the national debt even more.
Just to help put these numbers in perspective, here’s what $3.729 trillion dollars looks like written out completely: $3,729,000,000,000. Any number that large is difficult to conceptualize until one sees all the zeros! Keep in mind that a thousand dollars looks like this: $1,000.00 – just for a visual perspective of how much money we’re talking about when we’re in the trillions of dollars!
Here’s another piece of the puzzle that’s important to understand: Despite the sequester and the allegations that the sky is falling, total federal spending will still increase from $3.5 trillion dollars in 2012 to nearly $3.8 trillion dollars this year. The Budget Control Act of 2011 forces the government to reduce federal spending by $1.2 trillion dollars over the next 10 years. That reduction package is called “sequestration.” The mandatory reduction in spending is about $109 billion dollars this year.
Another important point to keep in mind is that even with sequestration, next year’s federal budget won’t be smaller than this year’s; it means that the amount of increase next year will merely be smaller. Put another way, next year’s federal budget will be larger than this year’s, but just not quite as large as it would have been without sequestration. In effect, sequestration slows the rate of growth in government spending, but it doesn’t reduce it to an amount that’s smaller than the previous year. It’s like being told that instead of getting a dollar-an-hour raise, your raise is only going to be 98 cents, or a 2 percent reduction in the raise which, incidentally, is pretty close to the actual percentage reduction in spending that the sequestration calls for, which is approximately 2.8 percent, but it’s still a raise. So, government spending will increase, just not as much as had been requested!
Since all this was announced, the administration has been trying to make the budget cuts as painful for the American people as possible. In Chicago-style politics, White House tours were cancelled, the Blue Angels performances were scrubbed, Air Traffic Controllers were temporarily laid off, and a layoff of TSA employees at airports momentarily slowed down the boarding process – until it was realized that members of Congress would be inconvenienced by the delays! Obviously, these “money saving” moves were specifically designed to be as inconvenient for people as possible so there would be a grassroots outcry to eliminate the sequester. If it were up to the president, he would spend more and increase taxes again, rather than look for ways to reduce the deficit.
What’s so frustrating is there already is plenty of waste in government that the $109 billion, it seems to me, could easily be cut from the federal budget without inconveniencing anybody! For example, the federal government, it has been reported, owns and rents dozens and dozens of vacant buildings scattered around the country that could be disposed of. Another example is the weapons system, like Stryker vehicles, which the military doesn’t want or need, but which are being built anyway because they are in some Congressman’s district and the unneeded construction creates jobs for people who vote! We could also reduce the amount of foreign aid we send to nearly every country in the world!
“Business Insider” lists some other examples of government waste: The Conservation Research Program pays millions annually to farmers who don’t farm parts of their land. The USDA miscalculated the soil rental rate, wasting $114.5 million dollars, according to the USDA’s Inspector General. Up to $118 million could have been saved through better oversight of the Department of Labor’s Job Corps program, according to the DOL Inspector General. Because of an error in calculating performance standards, the Employment and Training Administration failed to track down $148 million in overpaid government checks. Medicare overpayments amounted to $1.2 billion last year according to the Department of Health and Human Service IG. These few examples of wasteful government spending amount to more than $1.5 billion dollars in savings that could have been realized and applied to the required $109 billion in cuts from sequestration.
The point is there are all sorts of savings that could be realized by eliminating senseless and irresponsible spending of our tax dollars by the federal government, none of which would require closing the White House to tours for the nation’s school children.
That’s -30- for this week.