President Obama says the sequester is dumb, and it is. Making radical across-the-board cuts to every program is no way to cut a budget. Some things need to be cut, some eliminated all together, but other programs actually need more funding. The sequester does none of that. It will cause needless pain and loss of jobs unless something is done to fix it.
But maybe we should be careful what we wish for.
There may be one silver lining to sequester-- it forces cuts to the defense budget which is a sacred cow in Washington. Since Ronald Reagan diverted half our budget to defense, few politicians dared cut that spending least they be labeled weak.
Congress throws more money at defense than Pentagon wants
Congress throws more money at defense every year than the Pentagon even wants. Congress funds weapons programs just because defense contractors want them. They keep bases open that were established after World War II to defend Europe from an invasion by the Soviet Union even though it no longer exists.
Congress spends billions a year on a nuclear stockpile knowing that in a nuclear war, the planet would be completely destroyed before a fraction of those could even be fired.
We spend more money on defense than the next 7 countries combined, and that includes the countries we need to protect ourselves from. When it comes to cutting out waste, the defense budget is the low hanging fruit. It is like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, however, and no politician dared touch it—until Congress passed the sequester.
Sequester gives the president an opportunity to close bases in Europe and force Europeans and Japan to defend themselves. It could eliminate or at least scale back expensive weapons programs like the F-35. Money can be saved by reducing the nuclear weapons stock pile while still leaving enough weapons to destroy the plant several times over.
According to the article the Pentagon’s top civilian and military leaders, speaking anonymously acknowledge that the painful sequestration process may ultimately prove beneficial if it forces the Defense Department and Congress to reconsider the cost of cold-war-era systems that are still in inventory despite the many changes made to the military in the last 10 years.
Pentagon starting to assess just doing less
There has been a culture in the Pentagon since Reagan that more is still not enough when it comes to defense spending. The massive defense budget has made billionaires out of bloated defense contractors, who hand out campaign contributions in dump trucks to keep that culture in tact.
President Obama has been signaling the Pentagon that things need to change. He says we need to be leaner and smarter in the way we defend our nation. The drone program is an example of how terrorists can be taken out without sending in hundreds of thousands of troops and carpet bombing parts of the earth, Rand Paul not withstanding.
But Congress blocks these efforts continually. They even de-funded the program to close down Gitmo. They restored funding for weapons the military does not want.
Rather than cut jobs, make plows not spears
If across-the-board spending is done to the defense budget, it will cost many people their jobs. That is not good for them or the economy. But what we can do is begin transitioning those workers into making plow shears out of spears. Shift them to rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. Make steel for schools, not weapons. This can be done without compromising our security! The transition can be smartly phased.
Perhaps sequester will give the president an opportunity to do that. Republicans have figured that out and that is why the House has already restored much of the Pentagon cuts while restoring none of the other program cuts.
Let’s hope that this opportunity to nab the low hanging fruit in the bloated defense budget will not be missed.