Our View: A self-inflicted disaster

DKS Editors

Even if you don’t follow politics, pay attention to this rather important news story about the federal government’s budget.

In 2011, concerns about the size of the United States’ budget deficit led to a law, which provided an incentive for Congress to reduce it. Failure to pass a law by Thursday that cuts spending by at least $1.2 trillion would force immediate, across-the-board spending cuts of that size, also known as sequestration, beginning March 1.

Obviously that is a lot of money, so those cuts will have a major impact. Much of the discussion is about the $42.7 billion in defense cuts, which is 7.9 percent of its budget: Will having less money to spend affect our national security?

We’re sympathetic to both supporters and opponents of the defense cuts. Many liberals have long clamored for cuts in defense spending; that part of the budget has been safe from rollbacks even as essentially every other government agency has faced significant budget challenges.

In 2009, government spending accounted for 10.1 percent of the economy; in 2012, it fell to 8.7 percent. Defense has been spared in these challenges, and the United States continues to spend more on its military than the next 13 nations combined. Surely at least some of that is wasteful.

But it’s also true the sequestration will hit both smart and wasteful federal programs with equal force, including deep cuts into programs that won’t drive up future deficits. Plus, slashing such spending so rapidly and drastically will undoubtedly harm the economic recovery. Wasteful or not, those billions and trillions of dollars go into the pockets of lower-class employees and workers who will feel a sting if their income disappears.

Stephen Fuller, an economist at George Mason University, estimates that sequestration (the defense and non-defense cuts) could cause as many as 2.14 million Americans to lose their jobs, increasing the unemployment rate by up to 1.5 percentage points. His analysis also projects the year’s gross domestic product could be $215 billion less than if Congress averts the cuts. This conflicts with President Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to cut the budget with a scalpel instead of a machete.

Do the risks of sequestration outweigh the benefits? We are only certain of one thing: We wouldn’t be in this mess if Congress hadn’t put us there to begin with. Contact your representatives to let them know what you think of their recklessness.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.