OP/ED | 2/22/2013 @ 8:00AM |24,320 views
The Non-Existent Spending Cuts Wrought By The 'Devastating' Sequester
By Bill Wilson FORBES
In a city known for its perpetual evasion of responsibility and chronic shifting of blame, Washington D.C.’s sequester debate is more of the same – albeit with an interesting twist.
Ordinarily spending debates in our nation’s capital can be scripted long before they unfold: Democrats accused Republicans of “divisive,” harsh” and “burdensome” cuts, while Republicans stride hurriedly past television cameras with not-so-bright looks on their faces.
Meanwhile the legacy press goes into overdrive exaggerating the impact of these “cuts” – demonizing any politician who dares to support them as the equivalent of a puppy murderer. At this point Republicans invariably cave under the pressure – and the burden of both parties’ bad decisions gets shifted even further onto future generations of taxpayers.
“Members of Congress who would otherwise like to cut spending know they’re going to take a beating from the media and special interests,” concludes The Cato Institute’s Tad DeHaven. “Few politicians are willing to take that heat. Fewer still can even articulate why spending cuts and smaller government are good.”
This basic storyline – played out time and time again – is directly responsible for our nation’s $16.5 trillion debt, its soaring deficits, its unfunded liabilities and its inability to sustain anything resembling a real economic recovery. In fact the $630 billion tax hike associated with the recent “fiscal cliff” deal is the latest example of our economy paying the price for politicians’ refusal to rein in spending.
But the current debate over sequester – an across-the-board $85 billion reduction of budget authority which translates into just a $53.8 billion cut to outlays this fiscal year ending September 30 – is notable for both its unfounded hysteria as well as a surprising role reversal.
To recap, the sequester was originally supposed to total $109 billion – but lawmakers delayed its onset by two months during the fiscal cliff negotiations. Now U.S. President Barack Obama – who first proposed the sequester as part of the 2011 debt ceiling deal – wants to delay it again.
According to Obama, the sequester would represent “a huge blow to middle-class families and our economy as a whole.” Obama’s White House has also referred to the sequester as “devastating,” saying its cuts would “imperil our economy, our national security (and) vital programs that middle class families depend on.”
Sounds frightening – but is it true? Of course not. According to The Wall Street Journal ”federal domestic discretionary spending soared by 84 percent with some agencies doubling and tripling their budgets” during Barack Obama’s first two years in office. In fact the sequester would scale back just one of every six dollars in discretionary spending increases since 2008 – hardly a “huge blow.” Also, discretionary spending in 2008 was already tremendously inflated – having increased by more than 60 percent over the previous eight years.
In other words this isn’t even really a cut – “devastating” or otherwise – it’s a modest growth rate reduction following years of unnecessary, embarrassing and unsustainable excesses.
Where the sequester debate deviates from the norm is in its dramatis personae. Unlike prior spending debates, the sequester features Republicans attempting to shift the onus for cutting government onto Obama. U.S. Speaker John Boehner has repeatedly referenced “the president’s sequester” while decrying its “harmful cuts.”
What hypocrisy. Obama and Boehner both supported the sequester as an excuse for yet another unsustainable run-up of our nation’s credit limit – which exhausted its latest $2.1 trillion increase last December (after less than seventeen months).
“The debt ceiling deal in 2011 was agreed to by Republicans and Democrats, and regardless of who came up with the sequester, they all voted for it,” U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) said recently. “So, you can’t vote for something and, with a straight face, go blame the other guy for its existence in law.”
Exactly. Boehner and Obama’s game of “pin the tail on the sequester” ignores not only their shared support for the measure – but also their shared responsibility in overstating its impact.
More to the point it highlights the extent to which leaders of both parties in Washington, D.C. are abandoning taxpayers in order to curry favor with the legacy media and special interest establishment – both of which are dead set against any reduction in the size and scope of government.
Bill Wilson is president of Americans for Limited Government.
If the Republicans in Congress had any guts, they would drag the heads of each of these government departments down for a hearing and audit them publicly. Get them to defend their selection of budget cuts.ReplyDelete
The sequester cuts were the Democrats' idea! The stupid Republicans who went along with it placed themselves in an untenable position because by voting for it they became part owners. This dilemma is of their own making and shows how inept and stupid John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell are. They are the Keystone Cops of Washington DC! They are hopeless and useless.ReplyDelete
WASHINGTON — About 100 U.S. troops have deployed to the West African country of Niger to help establish a drone base for surveillance missions, in the latest step by the United States to aid French forces battling Islamic militants in neighboring Mali.ReplyDelete
In a letter to Congress on Friday, President Obama said the deployment would "provide support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region."
The last 40 American troops in the deployment arrived in Niger on Feb. 20 with the consent of the government, Obama said.
Okay, I give; 'splain yourself. :)ReplyDelete
The previous format was constructed seven years ago. It went through several evolutionary phases as politics changed. The big threat at the time was thought to be external. Today, IMO it is worse as the threats are internal. Most of this was discussed here. The problem for me was that I do have a full time business life and could not monitor the goings on and there were some very interesting people that were run off by a very few idiotic episodes from a couple of people that should no better.
It's a new day with a new focus. More to be said later. Don't be a stranger : )
My problem is - I'm not much of a "Libertarian." :) (the end result appears to me to be a slightly prettied-up feudalism.)ReplyDelete
I am a "Social Libertine," however. :) I suppose I could work with that.Delete
You should enjoy this:Delete
FBI agents caught sexting and dating drug dealers
Dating drug dealers, harassing ex-boyfriends with naked pictures, and pointing guns at pet dogs: these were just a few of the offences committed recently by serving FBI agents, according to internal documents.
Pointing guns at dogs?Delete
They are a trashy bunch, aren't they?
Yes, in my world we'd fire half of the FBI, and the other half would have to work for a living (no more chasing around after pot suppliers, and gamblers.)
A "Carol" to celebrate your new beginning:ReplyDelete
Oil to the World
I welcome the debate.ReplyDelete
Young voters that lean libertarian want to see that there is a party they can vote for rather than A or B.ReplyDelete
The king is dead. Long live the queen.
Congrats, Deuce. Nice looking format.
1. Routine Care, Unforgettable BillsReplyDelete
When Sean Recchi, a 42-year-old from Lancaster, Ohio, was told last March that he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his wife Stephanie knew she had to get him to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Stephanie’s father had been treated there 10 years earlier, and she and her family credited the doctors and nurses at MD Anderson with extending his life by at least eight years.
Because Stephanie and her husband had recently started their own small technology business, they were unable to buy comprehensive health insurance. For $469 a month, or about 20% of their income, they had been able to get only a policy that covered just $2,000 per day of any hospital costs. “We don’t take that kind of discount insurance,” said the woman at MD Anderson when Stephanie called to make an appointment for Sean.
Stephanie was then told by a billing clerk that the estimated cost of Sean’s visit — just to be examined for six days so a treatment plan could be devised — would be $48,900, due in advance. Stephanie got her mother to write her a check. “You do anything you can in a situation like that,” she says. The Recchis flew to Houston, leaving Stephanie’s mother to care for their two teenage children.
About a week later, Stephanie had to ask her mother for $35,000 more so Sean could begin the treatment the doctors had decided was urgent. His condition had worsened rapidly since he had arrived in Houston. He was “sweating and shaking with chills and pains,” Stephanie recalls. “He had a large mass in his chest that was … growing. He was panicked.”
Nonetheless, Sean was held for about 90 minutes in a reception area, she says, because the hospital could not confirm that the check had cleared. Sean was allowed to see the doctor only after he advanced MD Anderson $7,500 from his credit card. The hospital says there was nothing unusual about how Sean was kept waiting. According to MD Anderson communications manager Julie Penne, “Asking for advance payment for services is a common, if unfortunate, situation that confronts hospitals all over the United States.”
Claudia Susana for TIME
Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 42. Total cost, in advance, for Sean’s treatment plan and initial doses of chemotherapy: $83,900. Charges for blood and lab tests amounted to more than $15,000; with Medicare, they would have cost a few hundred dollars
The total cost, in advance, for Sean to get his treatment plan and initial doses of chemotherapy was $83,900.
The first of the 344 lines printed out across eight pages of his hospital bill — filled with indecipherable numerical codes and acronyms — seemed innocuous. But it set the tone for all that followed. It read, “1 ACETAMINOPHE TABS 325 MG.” The charge was only $1.50, but it was for a generic version of a Tylenol pill. You can buy 100 of them on Amazon for $1.49 even without a hospital’s purchasing power.
(In-Depth Video: The Exorbitant Prices of Health Care)Delete
Dozens of midpriced items were embedded with similarly aggressive markups, like $283.00 for a “CHEST, PA AND LAT 71020.” That’s a simple chest X-ray, for which MD Anderson is routinely paid $20.44 when it treats a patient on Medicare, the government health care program for the elderly.
Every time a nurse drew blood, a “ROUTINE VENIPUNCTURE” charge of $36.00 appeared, accompanied by charges of $23 to $78 for each of a dozen or more lab analyses performed on the blood sample. In all, the charges for blood and other lab tests done on Recchi amounted to more than $15,000. Had Recchi been old enough for Medicare, MD Anderson would have been paid a few hundred dollars for all those tests. By law, Medicare’s payments approximate a hospital’s cost of providing a service, including overhead, equipment and salaries.
On the second page of the bill, the markups got bolder. Recchi was charged $13,702 for “1 RITUXIMAB INJ 660 MG.” That’s an injection of 660 mg of a cancer wonder drug called Rituxan. The average price paid by all hospitals for this dose is about $4,000, but MD Anderson probably gets a volume discount that would make its cost $3,000 to $3,500. That means the nonprofit cancer center’s paid-in-advance markup on Recchi’s lifesaving shot would be about 400%.
Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2013/02/20/bitter-pill-why-medical-bills-are-killing-us/#ixzz2LkkYkD9n
Nearly two years after a powerful earthquake triggered a leak at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, the effects of that disaster are still being felt on the other side of the planet.ReplyDelete
A report released earlier this month by researchers at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station found that bluefin tuna caught just off the California coast tested positive for radiation stemming from the incident.
The study looked at the levels of radiocesium, one of the most common results of nuclear fission reactions, in Pacific Bluefun Tuna--largely as way to track the species' migratory patterns as the fish make their cross-oceanic journey in search of prey.
Now, what does a Libertarian do about "that?" :)
Hanford Nuclear Reservation - still leaking up a storm
The environment is best protected by eliminating sovereign immunity. The worst pollution disasters were under the control of the military or national governments. Chernobyl comes to mind.ReplyDelete