When the topic of sequestration arose during the final presidential debate Monday, President Obama declared, “It will not happen.”
Considering that Obama has also previously declared that he would veto any bill attempting to get rid of the defense portion of the cuts unless it includes tax increases, many were surprised by the President’s reversal. Yet merely hours after the debate, the President indicated not only will he not act to stop sequestration, but that he is actually factoring the cuts into his fiscal plans for the future.
Sequestration is a budgetary measure that will automatically cut $1.2 trillion over 10 years—nearly half of which comes from defense accounts—beginning on January 2 if Congress and the Administration do not agree on a plan to stop them. The President has routinely pointed the finger at the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for causing this doomsday scenario by passing the Budget Control Act of 2011, which mandated that the automatic cuts occur if the “super committee” could not find $1.2 trillion in additional savings.
Nevertheless, investigative journalist Bob Woodward has indicated that the Administration was pressuring congressional leadership throughout the process to create this budgetary measure. The President assumed that Congress would either cut defense spending dramatically or agree to tax increases to avoid such cuts. A transcript from a Des Moines Register interview with the President, however, reveals that he accounted for both scenarios in his fiscal plan.
Obama said to the Iowa paper, “So when you combine the Bush tax cuts expiring, the sequester in place, the commitment of both myself and my opponent—at least Governor Romney claims that he wants to reduce the deficit—but we’re going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months we are going to solve that big piece of business.”
This statement ignores not only congressional objections to sequestration and its devastating effect on national security but even the warnings of his Secretary of Defense and military service chiefs. President Obama is willing to put national security at risk for fiscal goals that are questionable at best.
During the tenure of this Administration, defense spending has absorbed roughly half of deficit reduction efforts, yet it accounts for only a fifth of total federal spending. The fact is that America could zero out its defense accounts entirely and the true debt drivers—entitlement programs—would continue on spending autopilot and eventually consume the entire federal budget.
Regardless of what the President says, the fact remains that the debilitating defense cuts under sequestration will accomplish nothing more than reducing the military’s ability to protect America. As commander in chief, Obama should understand this and not use security as a bargaining chip. With the January 2 deadline drawing near, Congress should uphold its constitutional responsibility to provide for the common defense and work to stop these cuts without raising taxes.