The Sequester Cuts Are Anything But “Deep”


There’s a lot of media alarmism going on over automatic sequester cuts, a bi-partisan idea put forward by President Obama and embraced by Republicans, set to take place in April unless Congress intervenes. The New York Times describes them as “deep automatic spending cuts that will strike hard.” Locally, too, there is no shortage of hype. “Budget Cuts Could Affect Hundreds of ND Guard Employees,” is the headline from CBS affiliate KXMB.

But how much in spending cuts are we talking about, really? Not much, as this chart from Dan Mitchell demonstrates:


That we can’t even engage in relatively tiny, marginal spending reductions without having a sort of national coronary is central to our country’s fiscal problems. Propose tax hikes, and people freak out. Propose spending cuts, and people freak out. Which is why politicians have been giving us the “best” of both worlds, which is huge spending increases without the corresponding tax increases, resulting of course in huge budget deficits.

Truth be told, the biggest problem with the sequester cuts is that they target only discretionary spending. In fiscal year 2012, mandatory spending (including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the national debt) totaled $2.254 trillion:


Total federal revenues, from all tax sources, totaled $2.449 trillion:


Even if we had eliminated every single penny of discretionary spending in 2012, we’d only have about $195 billion left over.

The sequester is aimed at discretionary spending, and while there are plenty of areas in that category of spending where we could find savings, it completely ignores the real problem which is non-discretionary entitlement spending. Spending that’s about to get far, far worse as states (including North Dakota unless the legislature blocks it this week) implement the Medicaid expansion called for by Obamacare.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • mikemc1970

    The people are becoming burned out by the leftist scaremongering. How many financial cliffs does this make it that the left claim would be the end of civilization?

    It’s time for the Republicans to do the right thing and allow Obama’s sequester idea to come home to roost. Yes the military cuts are unfortunate, but these are cuts that we will benefit from for years to come and with Obama, the credit card queen, in the oval office this may be the Republicans only chance to see any budget cuts at all.

    • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

      This is funny, coming from a guy who can’t grasp or accept reality, let alone couldn’t make an accurate prediction if his life depended on it.

      “That is the daily tracking poll numbers as well. You have to dig deep for the little nugget. Early voting for Democrats is down by 22% from
      2008 altogether. But I don’t want you to dig too deeply, I want you to
      remain your ignorant self until election night.
      ” – mikemc1970

      “Not according to Gallup. Early voting has swung in Romney’s favor 52-45 as of last night. But I don’t want that to discourage you from believing it’s going down exactly like your handlers are telling you it is. I want the reality to be a special surprise on election night from me to you.” – mikemc1970

      “HA! You really are this blindly ignorant. You just keep tapping your silver slippers together and saying “Obama is gonna win”. Over and over again and maybe it will come true.” – mikemc1970

      “He stole the election and you know it piss ant. You’re obfuscation from this fact is very amusing, but as weak as your inferior intellect.” – mikemc1970

      “The fact that Obama has subverted the electoral process that he was able to steal the election. – mikemc1970

      “No, there are 50,000 illegal aliens the left wants to turn into Democrat voters. Most of whom are socially conservative anyway. The Republicans just need a candidate that can reach the large evangelical population.” – mikemc1970

      “No the evangelicals did not come out to vote for moderate Mitt. Did your retard brain not understand?” – mikemc1970

      “Try to wrap your midget mind around this, Short Round: the evangelicals didn’t come out for the primaries because they didn’t like any of the candidates. They didn’t come out for the Republican candidate, in the
      general election, because they still didn’t like him from the primaries.
      Is stupid a genetic condition in your family or did your mother just smoke a lot of crack while pregnant?” – mikemc1970

      • mikemc1970

        Congratulations! They must have let you out of rehab early.

        • AV

          Maybe your crystal ball needs polishing, your predictions seem a little off?

          P.S. Or perhaps you could make your predictions by considering evidence, and using reason? But then you’d be a liberal …

          • mikemc1970

            So they didn’t let him out of rehab early. Yeah, he’s way too hooked on huffing benzene to have an early recovery.

            The party that uses every national tragedy to attempt to codify it’s political doctrine in US law makes decisions based on logic and reason? Man you need to join Hanni in rehab because it sounds like you’re hopped up on goofballs too.

          • AV

            “The party that uses every national tragedy to attempt to codify it’s political doctrine in US law …” — MikeMC

            You do realize that both parties do it? Every politician knows this “trick.” For example, Bush used 911 to push through the patriot acts, start a perpetual GWoT, and invade a couple of countries. Also the 1st bank-bailout was him too. (And Obama then happily embraced, and extended, these new executive powers …)

            Why would you expect Democrats to be less opportunistic? Nutters like Barbara Boxer, that try to use these tragedies to put more guns into schools, feed off of the hysteria of these events.

            Being an apologist for one side, while condemning the other, only helps them exploit these tragedies.

  • exsanguine

    leftoid scaremongering to freak out “teh stoopids” — too bad there are so many of them.

  • fargomg

    Just wait, In a month we run out of money unless we raise the debt limit again.,

  • zipity

    In the Alice in Wonderland on steroids that is Washington DC, a reduction in the rate of INCREASE of a program/departments budget is considered a CUT by the inmates of that particular asylum.

    If there weren’t automatic spending cuts, there wouldn’t be any at all.

    That can has been kicked down the road so many times it barely casts a shadow anymore.

  • SigFan

    The Republicans need to just let it happen. Once the people realize that the world is not coming to an end they’ll hopefully also realize that Obama has been demagogueing and lying. Obama’s idea – let him take the credit or blame.

  • Camburn

    Funny how everyone with earned income had a 2% cut in pay and survived.
    As far as the earned benefits of S/S and medicare? Both programs have money in the bank. Only in Washington is that a bad thing.

    • Rob

      As far as the earned benefits of S/S and medicare? Both programs have money in the bank.

      Uh, no. No they don’t.

      • JoeMN

        Didn’t you get the memo ?

        In Camburn’s Mayberry,the government takes those payroll taxes collected from Camburn, and places it in a special place, just waiting for him to retire.

        In the real world that money gets instantly sucked up into the vortex called government, mixed with borrowed Chinese, and freshly printed cash, and sprayed like a fire hose in all directions

        • Kevin Flanagan

          Haven’t we been told they are in a “lock box?”

  • banjo kid

    There should never be another tax increase ever as defense is not in danger if the money was spent where it should be. The Feds are going to have to realize people just do not have the money, it takes it all to get by and there are not enough money that could be got from the 1% so they had better buckle up cause it is going to be a stormy ride either way they go . To pay for what we have already committed to would take about every spare dime America has , unless we cut back we are heading toward being Grease I mean as in slippery and spread out and nasty .

  • AV

    If 5% GDP growth is considered good, then, for example, how is a cut of 8% in scientific research (NSF) funding considered “tiny”? Just like compounding interest, growth in technology behaves similarly (at least for our current tech-level).

    Investment in science and technology is investment in the future of America. And as Rob notes, the cuts will only have a minor short-term effect on debt, so why not take the opposite position, and invest heavily in the future?