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Sequestration: Time for the President and Congress to Quit Playing Games

Budget sequestration March 1

Graphic via The Heritage Foundation

Well, here we are again.  Nearly 60 days after the last Washington, DC-manufactured crisis called the “Fiscal Cliff,” we’re staring at a deadline to stop another manufactured crisis called “sequestration.”

What is sequestration? And what does it really mean for you and me?

What is Sequestration?

Sequestration is a fancy-schmancy term for $1.2 trillion in automatic across-the-board cuts to growth in the federal budget, over 10 years, that are set to take place if the Congress and President can’t agree on a plan for $1.2 trillion in specific budget deficit reductions.

The sequestration plan was hatched back in the summer of 2011 by the White House in an effort to get Congress to increase the federal government’s debt limit (how much money the government can borrow), which Republicans refused to do if there was no serious effort by the President and Democrats to cut the deficit and reduce the debt.

Need I remind you that the U.S. debt clock shows that we’re nearly $17 trillion in debt right now?

According to the debt limit deal in July of 2011, Congress would appoint a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, made up of Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate, who would come up with $1.2 trillion worth of deficit reduction that would be brought to Congress for approval.

If the committee couldn’t agree on where to cut $1.2 trillion from the budget over 10 years, then the Congress as a whole could act and work to find $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

If neither the committee nor the Congress could come to an agreement on $1.2 trillion in cuts by January 1, 2013 (the original deadline – which has now extended to March 1) then the sequestration would automatically kick-in and force the government’s hand to make across-the-board cuts.

Half the cuts (about $600 billion) would come from the defense budget, and the rest from other areas of the budget, except for social security, medicaid, civil and military employee pay, and veterans benefits.

The committee couldn’t come to an agreement. And neither has Congress, as of today.

Actually, the Republican-led House has already passed two bills outlining specific cuts that could be made, but the Democrat-controlled Senate has done nothing, as has been the pattern here since the President was elected.

The Senate hasn’t even passed a budget in four years!

How Did We Get Here?

The whole reason why we are dealing with this sequestration issue today is because neither the President nor the Democrats in Congress are serious about passing a balanced federal budget, making serious reductions to the budget, or solving our deficit spending crisis.

Leading Democrats from President Obama, Senate Leader Harry Reid (Democrat) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Democrat) all have said that America doesn’t have a spending problem. Instead, the problem is revenue – we just don’t tax the rich enough to pay for all the things they want the government to do.

President Obama doesn’t want to cut the deficit without raising taxes.  In fact, he’s said “We can’t cut our way out of a recession. We need to invest more…” In other words, when he says invest more, he really means the government needs to tax more and spend more.

But look, 10 years ago (in 2003), the U.S. federal spending was about $2 trillion.  Today it is $3.6 trillion (factoring for inflation).  That’s a 75% increase in 10 years (according to yesterday’s Bill O’Reilly Talking Points Memo).

We’re spending 75% more than we were 10 years ago, but our unemployment rate is higher now than then, and we have about the same percentage of people living in poverty.

What are we really getting for the money?

How Will Sequestration Cuts Affect You?

For the last few days the President has gone on a nationwide road show in an attempt to gin up fear in the American populace about all the cuts to vital services and programs that will happen if the Republicans don’t cave on taxes so the sequestration can be stopped.

Here are just a few of the crises the President said would happen on March 1 when sequestration kicks in:

  • Serious flight delays and lapses in safety because the FAA will furlough thousands of employees.
  • Millions will lose welfare benefits due to program cuts.
  • Thousands of teachers and aids will be laid off due to cuts in federal funding for education. Remind me, why is the federal government paying for local schools anyway?
  • National Parks services could be reduced and parks closed.
  • Longer lines at airport security checkpoints due to TSA layoffs.
  • And more…

But look, the President isn’t being honest.

He has taken an oath to “faithfully” executive the office of President of the United States.

Do you think that setting up straw men and attempting to strike fear in the hearts of people is the way to faithfully carry out his duties?

Don’t you think there are plenty of lesser things that could be cut from every government department before you start making cuts to vital things that will really affect us all?

Key Republicans said they want to give the administration greater latitude to manage the cuts so that targeted cuts could be made that don’t affect vital services and programs.

This is a golden opportunity for President Obama to cut out all that “waste, fraud and abuse” he said he could eliminate during the healthcare debate.

Interestingly, the President told Congress he didn’t want more latitude to target the cuts because it would be “too hard” to make decisions about what to cut.

Making real budget decisions is now above his pay grade?

I can’t blame President Obama for wanting to do his sequestration road show and keep his campaign going long after the election is over. It’s fun to travel the country, speak at rallies, and rail against “the man.”

But when you get the job of being “the man,” you’ve got to play the man, and make real leadership decisions that the office requires.

I don’t think President Obama was elected to play games with Congress or with the American people. Do you?

I hope – and pray – that President Obama gets serious about being faithful to our Constitution and our ideal of limited government, and serious about not burdening future generations with a government that is “too big to cut” and too expensive to pay for.

Do you think the president’s doomsday warnings will come true if the across-the-board sequestration cuts take effect on March 1? What do you think it will take to balance the government’s budget?

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About the author

Rich Rich writes on personal finance from a pastor's perspective here at Money Wise Pastor. He loves In-N-Out Burger (and has the t-shirts to prove it), urban living, homeschooling, Gungor concerts, helping people succeed in life and work, camping, dreaming with his wife, and equipping his five children to become financially faithful and free. Find him on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Talking politics can always be a treacherous road, so all I will say that the problem is on both sides of the aisle. You can’t blame one side and if you do, then you are drinking the kool-aid.

    • Grayson, thanks for entering the fray! 🙂 Yes, I totally agree that both sides have contributed to the spending and debt problem. However, I think any casual observer, having heard the statements from Pelosi, Reid, and the President, would agree that their side does not acknowledge that there is a serious spending and debt problem. Famous Watergate reporter Bob Woodward called the President’s blame of the Republicans, and his attitude toward the way in which budget cuts should be made, “madness.”

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