The media frenzy and political hype surrounding sequestration seem out of proportion to its real impact in terms of the total federal budget.
In 2013, in rough numbers, the $85 billion in cuts that will occur represent only 2.3 percent of the total federal spending of $3.79 trillion, and only 6.2 percent of the $1.37 trillion deficit. The impact of the cuts to defense represents about 7.3 percent of the 2013 budget. The folly of our political leaders is where they are deciding to make the actual cuts.
Congress and President Obama should look to America’s families for guidance. Over the last 10 years, the median income for American households (in 2011 dollars) has dropped about 6 percent. Comparatively, that is three times the size of the sequester cuts.
The vast majority of families made adjustments to non-essential spending such as movies, vacations, entertainment, etc. Their first thought was not to cut spending on essentials like groceries and medical care. And, while it has been difficult, most families have survived the 6 percent cut. A cut precipitated by poor policies promoted by Congress, the president and past presidents.
Congress and the president, on the other hand, do not target waste or non-essential spending. Instead, they target cuts that will have the largest, emotional media impact. And, since the 6 percent cut in median income to U.S. households isn’t enough, Congress and the president want to make sure the federal budget stays whole by taking more tax dollars from America’s families. We, the people, can do with less, but apparently the government can’t.
Growth in the federal budget has outpaced growth in the GDP and has eclipsed growth in the median household income. The federal budget is 89 percent larger than it was in 2002. The GDP is 49 percent larger. Median household income grew 18 percent in actual dollars. If you compare 2012 to 1992, only 20 years ago, the growth is even more staggering. The federal budget is 174 percent more than in 1992, the GDP is 152 percent larger and median household income is only 63 percent higher.
To further demonstrate the lack of discipline on the part of Congress and the president, compare deficit spending and the national debt. In 2012, the deficit represented 36 percent of the total budget spend. In 2002, the deficit was 7.8 percent and in 1992 it was 21 percent. The national debt is unfathomable at $16 trillion. That is over two and a half times the debt in 2002 and nearly four times the debt in 1992. This is where the public outcry and media frenzy should be focused, not a paltry 2.3 percent cut in federal spending.
The total campaign spending in 2012 reached a record $6 billion. Campaign ads were replete with themes of change, hope and a new tomorrow. But, after all of that, nothing has changed. The political landscape in Washington is as barren of leadership on both sides of the aisle as it has ever been.
American families are being asked to shoulder more and make even greater sacrifices while the federal government refuses not only to do with less, but wants to continue to grow at an unprecedented pace.
The dysfunction in Washington is a national embarrassment, and the out of control spending and debt will be a scourge on future generations.
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, White House Office of Management and Budget, OpenSecretsblog.
Brian Allen is a former Utah State Legislator and is now a registered lobbyist in Utah and several other states and a government affairs advisor to several national organizations.