Starting Saturday, federal spending will be automatically reduced, as Congress and the White House failed to come up with a better plan.
The cuts comprise about 2.5% of the federal budget. Nearly half will come from defense spending, and half from domestic spending, such as welfare and medicare. Most cuts will be phased in during coming weeks.
Here are some observatios on the so-called sequester from three Nebraska politicians:
Sen. Deb Fischer: Stop the insanity
Let me be clear: I support responsible replacement cuts that make fiscal sense, reduce actual spending, and ensure government can continue to meet its core responsibilities.
If necessary, I would also support legislation that gives federal agencies the flexibility to make smarter spending cuts.
This week, we also marked the 1,400th day since the United States Senate passed a budget – a sad milestone. Without a balanced budget to rein in spending, we’ve seen four years of trillion dollar deficits. Since 2008, federal spending has increased by 19 percent, which is financed by borrowing $85 billion a month from nations like China.
Nebraskans know that federal agencies can absorb a 2.4 percent spending reduction (the size of sequester) to our $3.5 trillion in annual federal expenditures in a smart and efficient manner.
If Congress can’t demonstrate to the American people that we can shave off a fraction of spending – that 2.4 percent cut – how can the American people have faith that they will ever see a balanced budget again in their lifetimes?
It has been just eight weeks since taxes went up on Americans, and now some of my colleagues are proposing billions of dollars more in additional taxes. Under current law, sequestration was not designed to raise taxes – if it was, taxes would go up automatically; instead this law was designed to cut spending.
Budget cuts must happen, and they will happen – it’s just a matter of deciding on priorities.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry: Stop the redundancy
Earlier this week, the Appropriations Committee held a hearing with the head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). I raised the issue of GAO findings that cited 132 topic areas within federal programs with duplicative missions and 300 action areas to tackle redundancy.
An updated version of the report due in April will identify 30 more problematic areas. Consolidation of programs could officially save tens of billions of dollars, and unofficial estimates put that number in the hundreds of billions.
Further questioning revealed that there is approximately $385 billion of uncollected federal revenue.
The GAO report could act as a guidepost on how we achieve the right balance of reductions and more effective services.
Rep. Adrian Smith: Work with fewer tax dollars
Federal spending has increased dramatically in the last several years; there is no reason a small percentage cut should cause the catastrophic problems the President has predicted.
The sequester requires a cut of $85 billion in a budget of more than $3.6 trillion – or about 2.3%. To get our fiscal house in order, all agencies and programs should be expected to continue doing their jobs with fewer tax dollars.
It is always difficult to reduce spending, but the longer we wait to address this problem, the less flexibility we will have in making the cuts and the more painful they will be.
We must start to make these decisions and I am optimistic Congress and the President will come to an agreement soon to replace the arbitrary cuts with more responsible and less disruptive reductions.
The sequester is not the optimal scenario, but we need to be more concerned and focused on the future of our country.