Paul Jacob

February 10, 2013

“It will begin. It will last ten years. It will be good for the economy. It will be very helpful,” anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist said recently. The “it” he refers to is what’s become known as “the sequester” — automatic spending cuts in the Budget Control Act of 2011 that were originally proposed and then signed into law by President Barack Obama, after being passed by both Houses of Congress.

Since everyone from Mr. Obama to the backest-bench blowhard congressman argues that we need to curtail out-of-control deficit spending, the idea was to propose some actual cuts . . . off in the future, mind you. Moreover, these particular spending cuts were designed to be so unpalatable to both Republican and Democratic politicians that both sides would be forced to come together, at some point, to agree on more thoughtful reductions in spending. The time to do this? Back then, that dreaded far flung future was today.

Add time management to the long list of Washington’s failures.

That both parties kicked the can down the road back in 2011, that they concocted and armed what they intended to be a mini-doomsday machine, and that these two colorful armies of partisan Dr. Strangeloves could not come together to disarm their creation is stunningly no surprise at all.

Now, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta steps down, he complains again that, “If sequester takes place, and we suddenly have another half a trillion dollars [over ten years] that I got to take out of the defense budget, in an across-the-board fashion, frankly, the defense strategy we put in place I’d have to throw out the window.”

Sorry to hear that, Mr. Secretary. Perhaps that’s why, as recently as last September, a Pentagon spokesperson admitted “we have not begun any planning efforts” to address the looming 7.3 percent reduction in military spending for 2013. (Were none of the Pentagon big-shots ever Boy Scouts?)

The exclamation point in Panetta’s testimony before Congress last week was his conclusion that, “Instead of being a first-rate power in the world, we’d turn into a second-rate power. That would be the result of sequester.”

Hmmm. Doesn’t sound very safe. We’re not talking about losing farm subsidies for wealthy corporate farm companies or free cellphones for those on the receiving end of other welfare programs or the money to reward green-energy cronies. The military keeps us safe . . . when it’s not blowing up bad guys (along with women and children) in countries most of us can’t find on the map.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.