Despite what the media and politicians would have us believe, the United States did not collapse last Friday when the package of spending reductions known as “sequestration” went into effect. The financial markets hardly blinked, as they have come to be more skeptical about these periodic government-hyped “crises.”
What had been portrayed as a drastic reduction in government spending was merely a decrease in the projected rate of increase in government spending over the next decade. Under sequestration, government spending increases by $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years rather than $2.5 trillion without it.
So we are speeding toward collapse at only 100 miles per hour instead of 110 miles per hour.
Some in Congress are using the panic over sequestration to justify another surrender of legislative authority to the executive branch. These members want to “pass the buck” on prioritizing federal programs by giving the president, cabinet officials, and high-level bureaucrats authority to set spending priorities. However, it is Congress’s job to set priorities in federal spending.
The drafters of the Constitution give the legislature the authority over spending because they recognized it was a threat to liberty to allow this power to be concentrated in the executive branch. Congress’s willingness to cede more authority to the executive should be opposed by everyone who values liberty and limited government.
Some of the loudest objections to sequestration have come from the champions of the military-industrial complex. Yet under sequestration defense spending will still increase by 18 percent over 10 years as opposed to 20 percent without sequestration.
There are claims that the military will face a one-time real reduction back to 2007 levels of spending, before beginning to climb again next year. That remains to be seen. However, few claimed at the time that 2007 levels of military spending, occurring as they did during the huge post 9/11 build-up, were inadequate.
But despite the fact that the US spends more on military than the rest of the world combined, we are told that even this modest, short-term reduction would be, in the words of outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, “shameful” and “irresponsible.” A return to 1980’s levels of military spending in real dollars – a time of significant military build-up – is considered outrageous even though the US faces no Soviet Union or equivalent threat.
In fact, the entire $1.2 trillion dollars that the sequester is supposed to save could be realized by cutting one unneeded, wasteful boondoggle: the $1.5 trillion F-35 fighter program. The F-35, billed as the next generation all-purpose military fighter and bomber, has been an unmitigated disaster. Its performances in recent tests have been so bad that the Pentagon has been forced to dumb-down the criteria. It is overweight, overpriced, and unwieldy. It is also an anachronism: we no longer face the real prospect of air-to-air combat in this era of 4th generation warfare. The World War II mid-air dogfight era is long over.