On Jan. 1 the Congress-mandated “sequester” will kick in. Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that this will be devastating to the nation.
But choosing to go over the “cliff” may in fact be our best option. There will be some pain, but it is quite unrealistic to think that we can get out of the predicament we are in without experiencing some difficulty.
There are significant advantages to doing nothing at this time. For instance, restoring the Clinton-era tax rates and cutting the federal budget by 10 percent across the board will put our fiscal deficit on a path to resolution, especially given the likelihood that we will soon be ending the second of the two Bush wars.
The big ticket expense item has to do with the Pentagon budget. For the first time, defense planners will have to assess and prioritize their needs. This has been a long time in coming. The defense budget doubled after 9/11, primarily to fight two unnecessary wars as a result of an ill-considered approach to dealing with terrorism. From now on, it will be critically important to challenge the advisability of continuing to develop the kind of weaponry that was useful only to fight the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Moreover, there is a real question as to whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth from our investments in new defense technologies.
Consider tactical fighter aircraft, specifically the F-22 and F-35 programs. If we need to cut spending, these two programs would seem a good place to start. Consider: to date taxpayers have purchased 187 of the F-22s, the cost for which has run into the billions; despite the fact that we have been fighting two wars for over 10 years no F-22s have been used in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Now we have the F-35 program and, like its predecessor, it has been plagued by delays and cost overruns. Yet, taxpayers are apparently on the hook to buy more than 2,000 of these planes.
This is a real tragedy and what makes it worse is that the direction seems firmly established as though it were on autopilot. Billions continue to be spent on weapons that don’t work and will likely never be used. All the while many Americans are unemployed and are losing their homes; 15 percent of the nation lives in poverty and this nation cannot even find a way to provide basic health services to everyone. Surely we can do a better job of apportioning our resources to meet the needs of our citizens while maintaining an appropriate level of national security.
As it turns out, the sequester is the only way to stop this madness and get the nation on a trajectory to a secure and prosperous future. We should be thankful that an incompetent Congress has put us on this path. We can finally get our house in order and Congress doesn’t have to do anything — but get out of the way.
Gordon P. Rondeau