Supercommittee triggers automatic budget cuts. What now?
The automatic cuts triggered by the Congressional supercommittee's failure to come up with a budget plan will be evenly split between defense and non-defense. But some members of Congress are trying to spare the defense budget.
Now that the supercommittee seems to have gridlocked, we default to the automatic cuts—the sequester. The fact that these are split evenly between defense and non-defense has some members of Congress* talking about “reconfiguring” the deal to take less from defense, and implicitly more from non-defense spending (entitlements are largely exempted from the sequester).Skip to next paragraph
Before joining the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as a senior fellow, Jared was chief economist to Vice President Joseph Biden and executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class. He is a contributor to MSNBC and CNBC and has written numerous books, including 'Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed?'
In Pictures Who's who on the US deficit super committee
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This is pure bait and switch. I’m sorry they don’t like the deal they cooked up to get out of the debt-ceiling mess they created. I’m not a big fan either. But the trigger was structured as tough on defense to make it something they’d want to avoid. And let’s remember: the $900 billion of cuts already on the books came exclusively from the non-defense part of the budget from important programs that are already strained—Head Start, child care, education, infrastructure, R&D, and more.
As far as the reconfigurers’ tag-line—“a threat to national security”—well, I don’t buy it and they should have thought of that before. Defense spending is up to around $550 billion per year, and security, adding in Homeland Security et al, gets you up to close to $900 billion. So $55 billion of cuts per year for nine years is a worthy goal, especially in a world where a flexible, efficient military is much more important than a huge one.
But I’m no expert and if I’m wrong—if defense cuts of that magnitude are too large—then they should be diminished dollar-for-dollar with the cuts on the non-defense side. Yes, that means less than $1.2 trillion in deficit savings but so be it. It’s an arbitrary target anyway, set because that was the increase in the debt ceiling, which itself is a useless construct. The concentric circles of crazy here are truly daunting.
Or, perhaps you’d like to have this all summarized by a Haiku:
Is to jigger the trigger
Than that, we’re bigger
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