Saturday, February 23, 2013


The infamous, frightening sequester is now less than a week away. It's so frightening in fact that, instead of trying to prevent it, Congress went on vacation all this past week. (Most people got one day off for Presidents Day - if that much. Congress claims a whole week).
Just how frightened anyone should be by the admittedly infamous sequester is unclear. The Administration is certainly beating the drum about how harmful it is going to be to the country. Inevitably, any reduction in government spending is potentially harmful to a slowly recovering economy, but exactly how harmful is quite unclear. What is clear, of course, is that the policy is stupid and irresponsible, which in fact is what it was intended to be. It was never actually intended to happen. It was supposed to scare congress into addressing the deficit in something like a rational way. Obviously, no serious country should operate this way - ostensibly putting its fiscal house in order by random, across the board budget cuts. Democratic governance is about deliberation and debate oriented to rational decision making. Like leaving important decisions to an irrational free market, random across the board budget cuts are an abdication of the faculty of judgment - the very opposite of deliberation and debate oriented to rational decision making.
The elite consensus that the deficit is our major problem is itself somewhat problematic. But, even if we grant that the deficit is a pressing problem and ought to be addressed immediately, it seems evident that the way to address it is through intelligent measures to raise additional revenue and reduce excessive spending. The sequester does nothing to raise revenue, of course, nor does it distinguish between efficient spending on programs that are important to our nation's well-being and excessive spending that the country can survive cutting. Most seriously of all, it does not begin to address the most problematic spending of all - entitlements, especially health care costs.
The only possible good that can conceivably come from this sequester is that more people may experience first hand how much worse life can get when important government services are sacrificed on the pagan altar of deficit reduction. American voters have long been guilty of believing they can enjoy the government services that go with being a civilized society - without having to pay for them. If more voters actually experienced how harmful "small government" actually is, then perhaps some sanity and moral responsibility might be infused into our political debates.
An injection of some modicum of sanity and moral responsibility hardly seems like a utopian goal. It remains to be seen, however, whether it is actually achievable.

No comments:

Post a Comment