In his speech yesterday, President Barack Obama referred to sequestration as a “meat cleaver” again, when news reports in fact show that the cuts have been much more targeted and much less devastating than he claims.
“Then, rather than reduce our deficits with a scalpel, by cutting out programs we don’t need, fixing ones that we do need that maybe are in need of a reform—making government more efficient—instead of doing that, we’ve got folks who have insisted on leaving in place a meat cleaver called the sequester that’s cost jobs,” President Obama said.
Before sequestration hit, the White House sounded multiple alarms, predicting widespread calamity and extreme consequences if it was allowed to take effect. However, only about one-fifth of those predictions have remotely come to pass, as reported by The Washington Post.
So what happened instead? Many agencies suddenly found millions of dollars to cut from less-critical programs. Congress helped, too, taking a hard look at unnecessary programs and helping agencies reduce expenses. Sequestration turned out to be not as scary, allowing flexibility between agencies to reach the desired amount of cuts.
“In the process, the ‘meat cleaver’ of sequestration often became a scalpel. It spared crucial programs but cut second-tier priorities such as maintenance, information technology, employee travel and scientific conferences,” says the Post.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some adverse effects. Sequestration disproportionally affects national defense, and military readiness has been hurt by decreases in training. But especially on the domestic side, the President’s warnings rang hollow.
Obama also claimed, “Almost every credible economist will tell you it’s been a huge drag on this recovery.” In fact, the economy has absorbed the cuts quite well. Moody’s says the U.S. economy “has demonstrated a degree of resilience to major reductions in the growth of government spending.”
Additionally, at about 2.5 percent of projected spending over the next decade, the cuts barely even make a dent in overall spending.
“Sequestration barely even slows the growth in spending, let alone cuts any spending out of the overall budget. Neither does sequestration rein in chronic deficits. Sequestration trims only 12 percent off cumulative deficits over the decade, while U.S. debt held by the public continues growing to economically damaging levels,” explains Heritage’s Romina Boccia.
President Obama’s 2013 tax hikes are nearly double the size of sequestration. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco concludes that uncertainty over these tax hikes is among the largest factors in depressing job growth. Uncertainty over Obamacare and the Dodd–Frank financial regulation is also hampering growth. If the President wants to help the economy, he should start by taking a “meat cleaver” to his tax increases and regulations instead and work with Congress to resolve the looming spending and debt crisis.
Danny Huizinga is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.