Sequestrations Weird Politics
Matthew Yeglasias slate.com
Liberals really want people to be more upset about sequestration than they are, while conservatives are crowing that these doomsday scenarios haven’t come to pass. But when you run the numbers, this doesn’t make much sense.
Recall that sequestration exempted from cuts Social Security, Medicaid, and most means-tested anti-poverty programs. It also cut equally from the military and non-military sides of the budget. But since the military is responsible for less than half of all federal discretionary spending, that means military spending took a bigger hit than any category of non-military spending. Then on the non-military side, Medicare benefits were left intact but Medicare provider payments were cut. What’s more, at least some of the non-military domestic discretionary budget goes to what are still broadly “security” programs (Drug Enforcement Agency, Customs and Border Protection) about whose merits most liberals are skeptical. So you have a broad cut in government spending that mostly comes out of the government’s various “guys with guns and uniforms” undertakings with some of the rest coming in the form of reduced profits for America’s bloated health care industry. The fact that you can cut a lot of this spending without detriment to the welfare of the American people is exactly what liberals have been saying about these programs for years.
Nobody should deny that some real damage is being done. Kids losing their Head Start slots is a genuine tragedy, the hits to schools on Indian reservations are awful, and Meals on Wheels programs are slashing services. That’s nothing to laugh off. But at the same time, these kind of cuts are a distinct minority of what’s in sequestration. If you reversed the whole thing, for every fifty cents of programs to help the needy you’d be adding back a buck fifty of security programs, hospital largess, etc. Depending on the exact structure of the deal that might be a good idea or it might be a bad one. But there’s no particular reason that reversing this cuts tout court ought to be a particular liberal priority, especially since restoring funding to liberals’ favorite sequester-hit programs would be much cheaper and easier than finding the money to reverse the whole thing.