Now let me be clear that I am not advocating going over the sequester cliff (how’s that for mixing metaphors) nor do I think that we will. But in listening to the dire predictions in the media and among various politicos I have to wonder how bad it really would be, assuming that it was implemented in a sensible and prudent manner.
The numbers vary depending on who you listen to but it seems reasonable to say that no agency would be facing much more that a 10% cut in spending should things go through.
Now take a moment and consider your own personal budget.
Would a ten percent cut in spending be tough ?
You bet it would.
But would you have to stop eating, move into your car and take grandma out of her retirement home the first day ?
Certainly there would be difficult decisions to be made. Things like cable TV, cell phones, eating out for lunch, etc would pretty quickly face the chopping block or at least serious cutbacks. It would be tough for a family of four to have to survive with just one or two cell phones, sharing them as needed, but things could be worked out. It would be a sacrifice to no longer be able to watch all those TV or movie channels but you’d survive.
And I also understand that even deeper cuts might have to happen. Meals at home would be much more basic. Lots of pasta and rice, much less meat and not much in the way of treats. You’d have to watch the electrical bill and when you might just have to walk rather than drive when your destination was close enough.
Of course if you wanted to make things look bad you could easily do some of the more drastic things like shutting off the power entirely or going without meals but it would be more show than necessity.
I think the same circumstances apply to the potential sequester cuts.
Would it be hard for the various departments to implement them ?
But would they have to immediately pull guards off the border, shut down day care centers and throw old people out on to the street ?
Probably (almost certainly) not
Yes you might have to have an agency work 4 days a week instead of 5, you might have to delay planned expansions or improvements (and heaven forbid you might have to tell upper management to hold off on that week long conference in Hawaii).
But you would certainly not have to cut things to the bone as some are suggesting.
Of course this kind of behavior is hardly new. Whenever the government needs to reduce spending the first things they go after are those that will make the public upset because then they can argue for increased taxes.
I do think that we will avoid the sequester and I think that we should try to do so. Rhetoric aside the fact is that having it go through would result in damage to our credit rating and that is important to avoid.
I also think the Republicans need to step up to the plate and show a willingness to cooperate with the Democrats (who control both the White House and the Senate versus just the House for the GOP). I think they need to accept that some tax increases are probably going to have to happen and that all of the spending cuts they want aren’t going to occur.
And in the long term I think both parties need to accept the need for major reforms. We are going to need both tax increases and spending cuts to cure this problem and we have to address entitlement reform. Both sides are going to have to give.
And one nice step would be to stop playing the fear game when it isn’t entirely necessary.