"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Sequestration Bogeyman

Over the weekend the Regular Son started mocking the mainstream media's hype by doing a bogeyman voice and saying "sequestration," as if the word itself were somehow terrifying.   He's right, sequestration is basically a joke and I can prove it.

Here is what the Congressional Budget Office says will happen under sequestration in 2013:

Supposedly under sequestration the defense and nondefense spending of the federal government in 2013 will be cut by a total of $85.4 billion.   Sounds like a lot, right?   Sounds like we'll be in a world of hurt, right?

Wrong.   The total spending of the federal government in 2013 is still scheduled to be $3.55 trillion.   The  deficit is still scheduled to be $845 billion.   The long-term deficit is still scheduled to grow by some $7 trillion over the next 10 years.   The annual deficit will still be nearly $1 trillion ten years from now.

To do a little middle-school arithmetic:

  • The 2013 sequestration bogeyman is a little more than 2% of the 2013 budget.  
  • It's a little more than 10% of the 2013 deficit.  
  • It's a bit more than 1% of what we're scheduled to add to our national debt over the next 10 years.  
  • It's two-tenths of one percent of what we're scheduled to spend over the next ten years.  
In short, it's chicken feed.

Even the ten-year figure for sequestration, $1.2 trillion, is chicken-feed... perhaps 2.5% of our total spending during that period, and only about 17% of the amount we're planning to add to our national debt over the same period.   And, even with sequestration, we end up back running $1 trillion deficits by 2023.

Oh, and by the way, the whole Rube Goldberg contraption of a ten-year budget is based on a lot of assumptions that don't look too likely to me.   For example, they somehow assume that from 2015 through 2017 the economy will average 4.1% real GDP growth.   They need to do this in order to get the economy back to the baseline for growth from before the 2007-2008 recession, otherwise none of their numbers work and the debt and the deficits are much greater.   But does anyone really believe we're suddenly going to have a three-year spurt of growth at 4%?  The last time we had a three-year period of 4% plus growth was in the late 1990s in the middle of the Internet boom.   We haven't had a single year over 4% for the past 13 years.   But now we somehow miraculously have a boom.   Maybe, just maybe, if we allow fracking and oil exploration and production on a large scale, but I doubt the libs in the EPA are going to tolerate it.  

So the arithmetic shows that sequestration does very little to address our spending problem, and a close look at the assumptions shows that, even what little it does is based on rosy scenarios.

Look, here is all you need to know.   According to the CBO's own projections, this is what happens to the national debt over the next 10 years:


If the rosy scenarios don't occur, though, which they likely won't, these numbers will be much, much worse.

We're drowning.   Sequestration is a joke.   Our political process is broken.   Washington is not serious.

Meanwhile, did you check Michelle O on the Oscars last night?

Fiddling.  Rome.   Burning.

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