If not 'sequester,' then what? Five ideas from left and right.

Few in Washington believe that "the sequester,” $85 billion in automatic spending cuts set to hit the federal budget as of March 1, is a good idea. But what's the alternative? Here are five proposals, from the right, the center, and the left, to replace the sequester. Which do you like?

2. House Republicans: ‘Fewer cuts now, more cuts later’

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File
House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio (r.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin return to Capitol Hill for a vote in this 2012 file photo.

House lawmakers deserve the badge for “Only People in America To Have Passed a Sequester Replacement.” Led by Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House’s GOP majority twice approved such legislation – but both times in 2012, in the last Congress. Of course, House Republicans could probably come up with the votes to pass their sequester alternative again, but they’ve made their point.

They say that if the Democratic-led Senate doesn't like their proposal, then it should approve an alternative and send it to the House. What doesn't the Senate particularly like? Here’s what the 2012 GOP proposal included.

Mr. Ryan’s bill, approved in March 2012, in essence would have instructed the relevant appropriations committees to collectively reduce spending by just $18 billion in fiscal 2013. But the committees would also be required to make programmatic changes to government spending and entitlement programs that would save another $116 billion over the next five years and $261 billion over the coming decade. House Republicans, in other words, would mute the impact of the sequester in 2013, but they would exact deeper cuts in future years to make up for the slow start out of the gate. 

This plan gave House committee chairman much latitude to decide what would get cut. However, Republicans highlighted several programs they would target. They would have, for example, reduced the number of people eligible for food assistance and a refundable child tax credit, eliminated parts of President Obama’s health-care reforms and financial regulations, and required federal workers to contribute more to their retirement plans. 

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

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