The Corner

Sequester vs. Surrender

I haven’t been in Washington long enough to say for sure, but it seems that 2011 could be remembered as a year of intense budget battles (shutdown, Ryan plan, debt ceiling, CR). The deals taxpayers got in the end have been disappointing, in my view. Often, the only benefit of reaching a deal has been avoiding a government shutdown. That also means that, as a result, lawmakers get to keep spending taxpayers’ cash and continuing to borrow more money.

The next battle in this series is what will happen with the supercommittee. The Cato Institute’s Dan Mitchell has an interesting post arguing that, if the Republicans appointed to the supercommittee are smart (meaning they actually believe in smaller government), they will do nothing and choose the sequester savings over a surrender.

. . . the likelihood that the Supercommittee will produce a good plan is about the same as seeing me in the outfield during the World Series (the real world series, not this one).

Fortunately, there is a way to win this fight. All Republicans have to do is … (drum roll, please) … nothing.

To be more specific, if the Supercommittee can’t get a majority for a plan, then automatic budget cuts (a process known as sequestration) will go into effect. But don’t get too excited. We’re mostly talking about the DC version of spending cuts, which simply means that spending won’t rise as fast as previously planned.

But compared to an inside-the-beltway tax-hike deal, a sequester would be a great result.

If the supercommittee can’t make progress on reforming Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, then yes, I think a sequester is the way to go. It won’t be enough, but in the current context it’s better than the alternative compromises. For the conservatives out there who fear that this option would slash defense spending, Mitchell reminds us that under sequestration, the Department of Defense’s budget would still grow by 17 percent.

The whole post is here.

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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