The sequester has wrought wonders in reducing the budget deficit.And unlike the hand wringing from neocon hawks, it poses zero risk for the defense of America.Click to my accompanying posts on the Cato Institute’s Chris Preble for the real story on defense. Chris is America’s foremost scholar on “Realistic Foreign Policy.” His book, The Power Problem is a landmark, and must reading for any serious foreign policy analyst, student or historian. Here Stephen Moore lays out the miracle of the sequester and points to entitlements as the next area to attack.
Consider the numbers: According to the Congressional Budget Office, annual outlays peaked at $3.598 trillion in fiscal 2011. After President Obama’s first two years in office, many in Washington expected that number to hit $4 trillion by 2014. Instead, spending fell to $3.537 trillion in fiscal 2012, and is on pace to fall below $3.45 trillion by the end of this fiscal year (Sept. 30). The $150 billion budget decline of 4% is the first time federal expenditures have fallen for two consecutive years since the end of the Korean War.
This reversal from the spending binge in 2009 and 2010 began with the debt-ceiling agreement between Mr. Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in 2011. The agreement set $2 trillion in tight caps on spending over a decade and created this year’s budget sequester, which will save more than $50 billion in fiscal 2013.
As long as Republicans don’t foolishly undo this amazing progress by agreeing to Mr. Obama’s demands for a “balanced approach” to the 2014 budget in exchange for calling off the sequester, additional expenditure cuts will continue automatically. Those cuts are built into the current budget law.
In other words, Mr. Obama has inadvertently chained himself to fiscal restraints that could flatten federal spending for the rest of his presidency. If the country sees any normal acceleration of economic growth (from the anemic 1.4% growth rate so far this year), the deficit is on a path to drop steadily at least through 2015. Already the deficit has fallen from its Mount Everest peak of 10.2% of gross domestic product in 2009, to about 4% this year. That’s a bullish six percentage points less of the GDP of new federal debt each year.
And on entitlement programs:
But the fiscal story isn’t all rosy. The major entitlements remain on autopilot and are roaring toward insolvency. Thanks in large part to Mr. Obama’s aversion to practical fixes, the Congressional Budget Office calculates that through July of this year Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending are up $73 billion from just last year. This doesn’t include ObamaCare, which is scheduled to add $1 trillion of new costs over the next decade.
So the fiscal progress reported here is no excuse for complacency. But it does call into question the wisdom of a government-shutdown confrontation over the budget this fall or a debt-default showdown that runs the risk of suspending the spending caps and sequester and revitalizing an increasingly irrelevant president.