Moderated by Tom Sabulis
Sweeping budget cuts are about to begin under the rules of the so-called sequester. Georgia congressmen from both parties write about the damage that will be done by the austerity measure and the political maneuvering that brought us to this economic line in the sand.
Commenting is open below Hank Johnson’s column.
By Jack Kingston
President Barack Obama has mastered a new kind of politics: Do nothing about a problem, refuse to meet with Congress, and then launch campaign rallies across the country to complain about nothing getting done. The latest example is his campaign against what he describes as the devastating cuts of sequestration. What he is forgetting to tell the American people is that it was his idea in the first place. He also forgets to mention that these “massive” cuts amount to less than 3 cents on the dollar over 10 years.
A little back story: Sequestration was created in the Budget Control Act of 2011. In exchange for another increase in the debt ceiling, the Obama administration proposed using automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion to force action on a larger deficit reduction package. It was the classic Washington move in which dessert is served up first, and broccoli is left for later.
To make matters worse, the sequestration proposal exempted 107 programs and largely ignored the drivers of our debt. Half the cuts would be directed toward defense, and 35 percent, toward non-defense discretionary spending. Less than 15 percent would come from mandatory spending on entitlement programs, which account for 62 percent of our budget.
That’s why I joined other conservatives in voting “no.” Not only were we against raising the debt ceiling yet again, but the spending reductions specifically protected the main problem — entitlements and welfare.
It was another boneheaded approach from a president and Congress afraid to take a tough stand. Despite dire warnings, sequestration is only a drop in the bucket in the context of our larger budget woes. The uproar over finding 3 cents on the dollar to cut belies the fact that our government has doubled in size over the last decade.
Our country is broke. Our future is at risk. We are not Greece yet, but that’s where we are headed. It’s not even just about our children’s future. This disaster is affecting us now, and inflation is already being felt at the grocery store and gas pump. Our jobless rate is way too high, and families are hurting.
Washington has a spending problem, and the only way to solve it is through spending cuts. Sequestration’s uneven hand may not be the best approach, but with a White House and Senate that refuse to act, it is our best chance to reduce spending today.
The House has acted twice to replace the cuts with targeted reductions and spending reforms. We have passed two budgets that tackle entitlements and put us on the path to sustainability. The Senate hasn’t passed a budget since the iPad was invented and gas was $1.87 a gallon. The president’s budgets cannot garner a single vote in the House or Senate.
When Washington shows leadership and deals with problems facing our country, the economy will soar. I know. I was there when we cut taxes, reformed welfare, reduced burdensome regulations, and balanced the budget. We can do this right with some dedicated hard work and honest talk. We don’t need any more excuses or gimmicks. We need courage and action.
Jack Kingston, a Republican, represent Georgia’s 1st congressional district.
By Hank Johnson
Sequestration was never put forward as a sensible policy for reducing our deficit, but as a reality check for both parties.
As the sequester deadline passes, we can continue to point fingers — gear up the blame game — and dig our partisan trenches, or we can choose to do better.
I hate to make my tea party friends uncomfortable by using a word they consider dirty, but with a little compromise, we can solve this. Without compromise, the $85 billion sequester could lower Gross Domestic Product (GDP), raise unemployment and flatten our fragile economic recovery.
A balanced approach to deficit reduction will help support the American people through job creation, economic growth and a strong middle class, while responsibly reducing our debt.
House Democrats have proposed balanced solutions that include repealing subsidies for big oil, implementing the Buffet Rule so middle-class families don’t pay higher tax rates than the wealthy, and refocusing farm subsidies.
Although sequestration takes effect today, the House leadership did not call a vote on a single alternative.
Georgia will be one of the hardest-hit states. This year, Georgia could lose about $55 million in education funding, putting more than 1,000 teacher or aide jobs at risk and impacting tens of thousands of mostly low-income students.
In addition, 2,490 fewer low-income students will receive aid to help pay for college. Head Start services will be eliminated for about 1,700 children. Georgia will lose about $427,000 in grants for police officers on our streets.
Perhaps most devastating, Georgia will lose about $873,000 in funding for job search assistance, meaning 33,160 fewer people will get the help they need to find jobs.
More than 35,000 civilian Department of Defense employees will be furloughed, reducing pay by about $190 million. Army base funding will be cut by $233 million, and Air Force operations funding, by $5 million.
I voted for the Budget Control Act that created sequestration. I believed that these terrible cuts would force Congress to compromise. But compromise is not part of the vocabulary these days.
I am proud to have voted for each budget deal — none of which was perfect or even my preferred choice – because I recognized that we must move past our self-inflicted wounds and compromise for the greater good.
This is one of those times we must listen to our better angels. If we don’t, economic growth will slow, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost, and more people will have to rely on government assistance for basic needs.
The Republicans have boxed themselves in, declaring there will be no negotiations and no new revenue on the table. This is the strategy they’ve pursued for the last four years: Obstruct President Barack Obama, inflict pain on the economy and the middle class, and then blame the president and Democrats.
This is exactly the opposite of what Americans are demanding. The people know we can do better.
Hank Johnson, a Democrat, represents Georgia’s 4th congressional district.