Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

February 26, 2013

The great sequester panic

(Continued)

It's hard to see how a cut of a little more than $40 billion this year can possibly tank a $16 trillion economy. Or why keeping the deficit the same as it is projected to be this year, at about $845 billion with the sequester cuts already accounted for, will be a shock too severe for the economy to take.

None of this should be taken as a brief for the sequester as policy. It is a classic instance of Washington coming up with a stupid kick-the-can compromise and then proceeding to have an even stupider debate over what to do next. The bastard spawn of the debt-ceiling fight, the sequester is designed to be crude and unappealing to all sides. It disproportionately and thoughtlessly hits defense spending and domestic discretionary spending. There is very little to recommend it Ñ except that it is actually a spending cut in a Washington where that is the rarest of creatures.

Ideally, Congress and the president would agree on more targeted and intelligently crafted savings. But the president insists on more tax increases. The other day he said a cuts-only replacement for the sequester would be as absurd as a taxes-only agreement on overall deficit reduction. Yet he exacted a taxes-only agreement from Republicans over the fiscal cliff, with nary a concern about making the deal more "balanced."

Since Republicans rightfully aren't budging on tax increases so soon after giving the president a tax hike that hit 77 percent of households (thanks to the expiration of the payroll-tax cuts), the sequester seems certain to happen.

Presumably, its cuts will be more rationally allocated at some later date. For now, to paraphrase Phil Gramm talking about Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, his own budgetary blunderbuss from the 1980s, the sequester is a bad idea whose time has come.

(c) 2013 by King Features Syndicate

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