Isakson offered his dire outlook after President Obama’s State of the Union speech proposing more than $83 billion in new spending for another “Jobs Act,” fixing roads and bridges, dealing with climate change, immigration “reform” and other presidential priorities.
The senator got it right on jobs. “We need to empower the private sector by having more predictable and less burdensome regulations,” he said. There are too many government jobs and too few private sector jobs, he added.
As for the automatic, across-the-board cuts called sequestration, Isakson said: “Sequestration is going to happen, and it is going to happen because the president has failed to lead on this issue.” The senator said he hoped the president “will lead and demonstrate the places where we can make meaningful cuts, the places where we can find savings and the places that we can have greater efficiency.” That sounds like a broken record, hoping for leadership from Obama on spending cuts.
Sequestration — the Budget Control Act that failed to force a bipartisan agreement — would slice $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, divided 50-50 between defense and domestic discretionary spending, unless Congress and the White House agree on a plan before the March 1 trigger date or come up with another postponement. If the trigger is pulled, $85 billion would be cut from the federal budget over the next seven months, including 8 percent in Pentagon spending and 5 percent in domestic agencies.
What if Isakson is right about the automatic cuts happening? That might not be so bad, according to some pundits and analysts. New York Times writer Tyler Cohen last week said the across-the-board cuts might be a good idea and “would still lead to higher nominal military spending and roughly flat inflation-adjusted spending across the next 10 years. That is hardly disarmament.”
On that point, Benjamin H. Friedman and Veronique de Rugy in an article for the conservative Cato Institute have suggested there’s no need to panic over sequestration’s effect on national defense. The automatic cuts, they said, “would indispose the Pentagon, not destroy it.” And they said “the Pentagon budget could safely lose at least that amount if cuts are made intelligently.” Discretionary defense spending would be reduced from $5.3 trillion over 10 years to $4.8 trillion, less than 10 percent. “In nominal terms,” they wrote, sequestration is not even a cut; it would see non-war military spending grow by about 10 percent from today as opposed to the 18 percent the administration wants.”
According to author Bob Woodward in “The Price of Politics,” the idea for sequestration came from the White House, specifically Jack Lew, Obama’s budget director at the time and now his choice for Treasury secretary.
It seems Obama outsmarted himself. Will he now agree to serious spending cuts — or go over the sequestration cliff?