The 2011 budget bill established automatic spending cuts. These will begin on March 1 unless Congress and the President agree on a way to kick the can and run up the on-budget deficit.
The whole thing is a charade. The cuts are always cuts in the expected increase in spending, not actual reductions in today’s spending.
The cuts are always listed in their 10-year total. This makes them sound really big. What is never mentioned is the total federal spending over this 10-year period, which is in the range of $47 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The major cuts are always out there at the tail end of the decade. Congress knows that these cuts will not take place. A future Congress will cut the cuts, which are in fact not cuts.
Meanwhile, the present value of the future total unfunded liability of the government is $222 trillion. It rises at about $11 trillion a year. These are real obligations.
The Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, is doing what he is paid to do: defend the present budget. He wants no cuts. He has sent a letter to Congress to this effect. He has warned of a “hollow force” military.
Time magazine ran a chart in 2012 of this hollowing out.
Panetta warned: “As our military leaders have made clear, changes like this — not well thought through, not phased-in properly — changes like this affect our ability to respond to threats in unstable parts of the world.” Excuse me? The Pentagon has known ever since the summer of 2011 that these so-called cuts were coming. If the military leaders failed to think thing this through and phase them in properly, whose fault is that?
It is the fault of a bunch of guys with four stars on their uniforms.
The White House is not going to send an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. Will the crew be laid off? No. Will the carrier be mothballed? No. Then how will the White House’s decision save money? It won’t. It’s a PR stunt. So far, Congress isn’t buying it.
Panetta has issued a warning letter to civilians employed by the Department of Defense. There may be layoffs, beginning on March 1. He bewails cuts of $500 billion. Fact: the reductions in spending increases will be at most $46 billion in this fiscal year. It’s the same old smoke screen: $500 billion over a 10-year period.
The Tea Party says it wants spending cuts. Let’s see how badly it wants them. Let’s see if the in-house Tea Party Republicans and the in-House Republicans call for cuts in the cuts.