Everybody agrees the sequester is a terrible idea. Nobody wants it to happen. But instead of doing the obvious thing and agreeing to get rid of the sequester altogether, Congress and the White House are scrambling to propose ways of replacing it with an equal amount of deficit reductions. The problem is, nobody can agree on what those should be. Consider:
- Republicans want to replace the entire sequester with cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social insurance programs, like food stamps. The White House says those ideas are "terrible."
- President Obama, meanwhile, wants a Grand Bargain, which would include combine smaller, more targeted cuts to those programs with additional revenue from tax reform. But for the most part, Republicans have said the president's proposal is dead-on-arrival because it includes tax increases. These Republicans claim to oppose the sequester, but say they'd prefer to the sequester to any sort of compromise with the president.
- Senate Democrats are looking for a set of smaller spending cuts and tax hikes that would replace the first part of the sequester, an effort the administration supports, but their plan requires revenue, which Republicans say they won't support. And House Progressives have proposed the only plan to eliminate the sequester that would both reduce the deficit and create jobs, but their plan makes too much sense for it to have a prayer.
Given that nobody in Washington, DC can agree on what should replace the sequester, the logical thing for them to do would be to repeal it. After all, the one thing everyone in DC seems to agree on is that the sequester is bad policy. To allow it to happen as some sort of "punishment" for not coming up with a plan for replacing it would be one of the cruelest jokes our capitol city has ever played on the nation.
And it's not just that nobody can agree on how to replace the sequester—it's that the fundamentals have changed since it was signed into law 18 months ago in the summer of 2011. The budget deficit at the time for fiscal year 2011 was $1.4 trillion. The forecast for this fiscal year is $845 billion. Even if you remove the sequester from the forecast, that's a 33 percent drop. In other words, we're already making progress on deficit reduction, even without the sequester. We do not need the sequester to bring the deficit down. It didn't make sense back in 2011, but even if it did, we don't need it now.
What we do need now are more jobs and faster economic growth. And as Meteor Blades reminded us, the most important element of this week's budget forecast was the finding that spending cuts have hurt economic growth. Fourth quarter GDP growth crashed in large part do to a sharp reduction in military spending. We absolutely know that cutting spending hurts growth. And given that we're already making progress on reducing the deficit, it's time that we renew our focus on the economy. Let's repeal the sequester instead of replacing it.
If you think jobs and the economy should be job number one and that we should repeal the sequester instead of replacing it with cuts to social insurance programs, please co-sign the letter to President Obama and congressional leaders urging them to oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.