President Obama is at it again. Unable to manage the government or the economy effectively, he threatens to victimize taxpayers and stick Republicans with the blame.
It appears likely sequestration will require $85 billion in cuts to defense and non-entitlement government spending.
Unwilling to acknowledge the government has a spending problem — over the last five years, outlays are up $1 trillion and three times the amount required by inflation — and that tax revenues are short because his policies have instigated the weakest recovery since the Great Depression, President Obama is threatening draconian measures if Republicans don’t agree to more taxes.
The president has announced meat inspectors will be furloughed and food shortages will result. His cabinet secretaries are threatening three-hour waits at airports to clear security, reducing embassy protection and border patrols, cutting the Persian Gulf Naval presence from two aircraft carriers to one, and the list goes on ….
Repeatedly, the president has exclaimed if congressional Republicans don’t cooperate, spending cuts now could derail the hard won recovery. It puzzles me how $85 billion in a $16 trillion economy could make such a difference, especially when tax increases of similar size, implemented on January 1 at the president’s behest, had no similar effect in his mind.
The Constitution charges the president with running the government effectively on the money Congress provides. While appropriation legislation limits the fungibility of funds, the administration has considerable discretion allocating the 10 percent cuts in non-entitlement spending.
Military bands have more personnel than the State Department’s Foreign Service has employees — I would rather jettison some tubas than Marine guards at embassies.
The Agriculture Department has one of the largest staffs of economists in the world, and the Social Security Administration employs a similar crop of dull numbers-crunchers. I fear for my brethren, but safe food is more important than yet another dull research paper.
To provide fuel and munitions to maintain the carrier presence in the Gulf, it would be better to trim ballooning military health care costs, something outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has expressed sympathy about addressing.
That would require longer-term reforms, but President Obama has refused to look at skyrocketing spending with a critical eye. He talks about balanced approaches to deficit reduction — half spending and half taxes; however, instead of matching increases in payroll and income taxes imposed January 1 with spending cuts, he pushed through more spending on unemployment insurance and other initiatives.
Now, the president is unwilling to manage effectively $85 billion in cuts across a $3.8 trillion government — remember administrative, research and public affairs outlays associated with entitlements are fair game, too. And what about the White House budget!
Instead, he would rather blackmail Americans with food shortages, long lines at airports and the like, and invoke the specter of another recession to gain political advantage over the Republicans.
Whether a second recession occurs is already baked in the cake. Obama’s high taxes, and those imposed by Democratic governors from Maryland to California, have forced consumers to trim purchases, retailers and wholesalers are reporting weaker traffic and are trimming inventories, and corporate leaders have announced plans to cut new investments and hiring, owing to weak demand and more burdensome health care costs and regulations.
When you can’t get hamburger at the supermarket and unemployment rises this spring, Obama will do what he does best, cast blame on Republicans for permitting sequestration, but it is the American people that bear the burden of presidential disregard for the responsibilities of his office and the harmful effects of his policies.
Perhaps, Obama should read less Lincoln and behave more like Truman. The man from Missouri often exclaimed “the buck stops here.”
Peter Morici served as Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission from 1993 to 1995. He is an economist and professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland.