What’s the deal with sequestration?
March 11, 2013
by Brian Wolf

Sequestration; now there’s a big word you never hear of, and to think that I almost made all these years without ever learning what it meant.

So, what does it mean? Well, sequester was originally passed as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), better known as the debt ceiling compromise.

It was intended to serve as incentive for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka the “Supercommittee”) to come to a deal to cut $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. If the committee had done so, and Congress had passed it by Dec. 23, 2011, then the sequester would have been averted. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

Most mandatory programs, like Medicaid and Social Security, and in particular, low-income programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, or welfare) and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), were exempt from the sequester. However some low-income programs, most notably aid for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), are subject to cuts.

So, will the sequestration end any programs? The answer is no. At least, it’s not supposed to. The sequester cuts discretionary spending across-the-board by $109.3 billion a year from 2014-2021, and $85.4 billion in 2013. But no programs are actually eliminated. The effect is to reduce the scale and scope of existing programs rather than to zero out any of them.

According to the Washington Post; the 2013 sequester includes:

• $42.7 billion in defense cuts (a 7.9 percent cut);

• $28.7 billion in domestic discretionary cuts (a 5.3 percent cut);

• $9.9 billion in Medicare cuts (a 2 percent cut); and

• $4 billion in other mandatory cuts (a 5.8 percent cut to nondefense programs, and a 7.8 percent cut to mandatory defense programs).

That makes for a total of $85.4 billion in cuts.

Everywhere you turn, it seems like the media and our government are freaking out about the forced sequester that requires the government to reduce its spending. You would think the world is ending, based on some of their comments.

Here is just one example . . . In the USA Today, the headline said ”Obama: Sequester Will Weaken Military Readiness.”

In the article, you can read the following:

“The sequester will weaken America’s economic recovery,” Obama told thousands of workers who gathered on the concrete floor of a cavernous building at Newport News Shipbuilding. “It will weaken our military readiness. And it will weaken the basic services that the American people depend on every single day.”

This sounds like a pretty big deal, doesn’t it?

But the statistics tells a different story . . .

Information from the government shows us that the difference between what the government spends with or without the sequester is pretty darn miniscule. Meanwhile, our national deficit stands around $16.6 trillion, an amount that is approximately 200 times bigger than the sequester spending cuts the media and politicians are all in a frenzy over.

Our elected officials are facing a serious and significant problem with their spending habits. If they can’t easily swallow a budget cut that barely registers on their total spending, how in the world will they ever be able to handle the bigger challenges of our out-of-control and escalating debt?

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