North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

February 28, 2013

Our Views: No, Washington, the sky isn't falling

North Jefferson News

AN NJN EDITORIAL — There are some of us who remember when the word “sequester” — the root of the word “sequestration” — meant to isolate a jury from the public during a high-profile trial.

We’re still not sure how the word found its way into the ongoing debate about spending and taxation in Washington. But to hear the Obama Administration’s wailing and gnashing of teeth, you would think that sequestration is synonymous with Armageddon.

If the sequestration portion of the Budget Control Act of 2011 is allowed to go into effect this Friday, the administration would have us believe that the military will shut down, that police and fire departments won’t respond to calls, that teachers by the thousands will be laid off, and that children won’t be fed.

In fact, the Obama Administration even issued a state-by-state list of just what they claim will be shut down or curtailed by the automatic budget cuts that will kick in if the president and Republican opposition in the House of Representatives don’t come to an agreement.

But here’s what the folks in Washington won’t tell you: Even if sequestration does take effect, the federal government will still spend more this fiscal year than last, and many of the cuts won’t even take place for several months, perhaps a year.

You see, budget cuts in Washington aren’t the same as budget cuts in the real world. Thanks to this little inside-the-Beltway trickery called “baseline budgeting,” all spending is based on what a particular agency spent the previous year, and increases from there. If the rate of that increase is slowed, that’s considered a cutback, even if there is still more spent in the current year than the previous one.

The House has already passed a bill that would avoid sequestration with spending cuts. But Obama and the Democrat-controlled Senate won’t touch it because it doesn’t include tax increases on the wealthy. So House Speaker John Boehner seems content to let automatic cuts take effect, if for no other reason than to prove the world will not end if the federal government has to tighten its belt.

Welcome, Washington, to the real world of true budget cuts.