The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

One for Three, and Savings for All

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


“To sequester, or not to sequester?” That appears to be the question for many of our congressional Hamlets.  At the same time, President Obama may be the Hamlet-in-Chief, his own White House having first proposed the sequester (according to Bob Woodward’s account), then stating flatly during one of the Presidential debates that the sequester would not happen, and now wheedling to the masses that the sequester should be replaced by the as-yet-unrealized “balanced approach” – i.e., additional revenues (haven’t we already been there and done that?) and spending cuts (so far, this is still the “road less travelled”). While sequestration – or, more specifically, across-the-board cuts to all programs – is probably not the wisest approach to public policy, there needs to be some form of budget discipline imposed on the federal government’s runaway spending.  If our elected leaders cannot agree on how to responsibly manage the nation’s finances – through the “old school” regular order of committee mark-ups, bi-partisan floor debate, and bicameral reconciliation of written legislation – then the indiscriminate budget axe falling across the necks of all federal programs equally may be the only way we will ever see any real cuts in spending. However, if the White House and Congress pursue a more thoughtful approach to avoiding the “sequester cliff” – without tweaking the tax code even more, ahead of a more deliberate undertaking of  tax reform in the near future – then serious proposals to cut spending must be considered.  One idea that cuts to the core of the bloated federal bureaucracy has been proposed by Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) of the House Armed Services Committee and Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).  The Down Payment on National Security Act of 2013 would require a government-wide reduction in federal employees by 10 percent.  This would allow federal agencies to hire one person for every three people who leave their jobs through attrition.  While returning the Defense Department’s civilian workforce to its 2009 levels, this provision would pay for the $85 billion in spending cuts sufficient to meet the Budget Control Act’s goal for the first year, paying for sequestration for both defense and non-defense accounts in 2013. The legislation also includes a provision to freeze the pay for Members of Congress. Even if the sequester proceeds without interruption or offset, this “down payment” would be a good idea to implement anyway – in addition, not just as an alternative to, the executioner’s cuts.  And let’s be honest:  until we get serious about reducing both the size of government and the smorgasbord of spending that it gorges on, there really is something rotten in the state of our democracy.

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