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Sequestration? Bring it on!

Published 11:02pm Thursday, February 21, 2013

By Jamie & Jett Johnson

Sequestration is a self-executing trigger mechanism that obligates Congress to make difficult, but necessary, cuts to the national budget in nearly every area. Is it irresponsible that Congress cannot pass a budget without this trigger? Yes, but that doesn’t mean they cannot be responsible when it comes to the design of the specific cuts.

It has been argued that sequestration is “budgeting blind.” This is not technically the case. Yes, $600 billion would be cut from both security and non-security discretionary spending; however, specific cuts within those areas would be carefully decided after the sequestration takes place.

Sequestration is what this country needs to finally thrust our politicians into a new and inventive era of constructive national spending. We must have spending cuts to survive as a strong and competitive nation in the global economy.

One of the most difficult aspects of the sequestration for our area is, of course, cuts in defense spending. Congressman Randy Forbes and other Hampton Roads leaders have argued that a sequester would harm the important military presence in our area, both in the public and private sense.

This is a political tool being used to take advantage of Tidewater’s ardent patriotism and support for our local military. And the prediction should not be valid if appropriate and responsible cuts take place.

For example, in the first year of sequestration, the U.S. military’s budget would be cut by roughly $50 billion. So, how could we ever cut so much from the Pentagon budget?

Well, “fortunately” for communities like ours, there is unbelievable waste in federal spending. Sen. Tom Coburn (Oklahoma) has drawn public attention to such waste as the Pentagon’s beef jerky production, its funding of microbreweries, the provided allocations to create an app that lets you know when to take a coffee break, and so on and so forth. These are just a few of the absurd uses of our tax dollars that fall under “defense spending” in our national budget.

More importantly, the U.S. outspends the next top 10 world military powers combined — by billions of dollars. Were military dominance a footrace, we’ve been speeding by in a drag car for decades. In one year alone, we could cut more than $20 billion in spending without even scratching the surface of our international military presence.

Other, more difficult cuts would indeed need to be made. For instance, reforming TRICARE (the military’s health care program) so that retirees pay similar rates to those in the private sector could save the nation over $10 billion dollars annually (and again, not in any way impact military communities). We would never argue that a soldier does not deserve every benefit that they are granted, yet is it not time that we take a look at where our country is heading? Reforming what could easily be deemed as excessive government benefits must be an option. When the taxpayer who funds government benefits sacrifices, so too must the government employee receiving those benefits. We are all in this together. No one is exempted and no one is an exception.

The point of this is to address that sequestration may just be the only option. Forcing our federal government to make cuts might just be the only way to save our future. Hampton Roads will not be devastated. Will we feel the effects? We will, just as everyone else. Sadly, though, our leaders’ hands must be forced by the sequester as they cannot or will not move them on their own. If we do not make difficult choices now, we may not have the luxury of making them in the future.

Jamie and Jett Johnson of Suffolk are students in the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. Email Jett Johnson at tjhnsn@gwu.edu.

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