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Sequester: Sound and Fury; Signifying Nothing

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

With the March 1st deadline for the sequester looming, the chorus of politicians and pundits decrying its passage in apocalyptic terms has reached a fevered pitch. These are the same political leaders who in the summer of 2011 agreed to implement these cuts if a broader spending deal could not be reached. The negotiations carried out by the Super Committee collapsed and the sequester agreement was passed and signed into law.


For months, the Administration promised the sequester would be turned off with a deal to offset the automatic across-the-board spending cuts. The President even went so far as to assure the American people in a debate with Governor Romney that the sequester simply “will not happen.” Of course, just one year prior to that he pledged to veto any bill that turned off the sequester. There is no seriousness here, only politics.

Now, with real spending cuts about to take effect, cynical politicians who supported this, have now pivoted their messaging to convince Americans that the sequester will result in catastrophic cuts to the military and other industries.

Just to be clear: the cuts are imperfect and blunt, but entirely necessary.

Of course, Obama does not believe any reduction in spending is necessary. If he acknowledged as much, it’d be a recognition that Americans need not be wholly dependent upon government. In his eyes, the sequester is an opportunity to make American feel as though they must have more government.

So, in recent days, the Administration has unleashed cabinet officials and political operatives to sound the alarms. Arne Duncan is warning of layoff notices for teachers. Tom Vilsack is warning of dire cuts to rural safety nets. Janet Napolitano is warning of a diminished ability to defend the homeland. All of a sudden, it’s a crisis.


As Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth, the proverbial wailing and gnashing of teeth is akin to “sound and fury; signifying nothing.” Without these cuts, debt held by the public will reach nearly 90% of our overall economy. We know from the experiences of other countries that this level of debt only increases the likelihood of a Greece-style debt crisis, guaranteeing a lower standard of living for all Americans and further diminishing opportunities for jobs and growth.

Many Republicans, even those prone to last minute dances of capitulation, have stood strong in the face of Obama’s embarrassing campaign-style assault. Remember, in January, Speaker John Boehner assured the Wall Street Journal he had the sequester “in his back pocket.”

He cannot allow Obama and other alarmists to play the role of pickpocket.

These cuts are only the first step in solving our fiscal crisis as they only reduce spending by $85 billion for this fiscal year in a budget totaling some $3.6 trillion. For those keeping score, that only amounts to about 2.4% of the overall budget. The government is still projected to have huge deficits this year totaling some $845 billion. This would seem to belie the accusations out of the White House that these cuts are “draconian.”


If draconian is forcing middle-class Americans to give up their daily $4 latte, so be it. That is much better than going bankrupt or leaving their children to shoulder their irresponsible burden.

Congress cannot simply kick the can down the road, again. The time for delay is over. If lawmakers are truly horrified by the shape – not size – of sequester, then by all means propose something. Tax hikes and gimmicks need not apply.

Once these spending reductions take effect and the American people see that the sky hasn’t fallen, perhaps Washington politicians will finally get serious about taking the necessary steps to put our fiscal house in order.

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