Deficit-hawk Republicans say the $85 billion across-the-board budget cuts that begin Friday under the sequester banner, unless Congress regains its senses, won't make much of an impact on a $3.5 trillion budget.
They're wrong. It could cost thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of jobs in Connecticut, which is so dependent on government defense contracts.
The deficit hawks say the federal government has to get spending under control anyway, so the rest of us ought to quit complaining and just let the sequester cuts — programmed 18 months ago to take effect March 1 if Congress and the White House can't agree on a deficit-reduction plan — take their toll. No agreement is in sight.
In Connecticut, that could mean the furlough of 3,000 civilian Department of Defense workers and the loss of millions of dollars of federal aid for education, health and environmental programs.
The Obama administration says the sequester will require a 13 percent cut in defense programs for the remainder of this fiscal year. Sen. Richard Blumenthal says the state could lose "tens of thousands of jobs" eventually, and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty cited a study estimating the losses at 42,000 direct and indirect jobs if the cuts are fully implemented.
This could be devastating to the state, which is already struggling with a higher-than-national 8.6 percent unemployment rate.
We hope the hawks are right — that even with the sequester, federal spending will still increase $15 billion this year (although that's a pittance in the overall budget) and that drying up less than 3 percent of government spending won't stall the recovery.
But why take the chance? There's still time to be rational.
The GOP-led House should accept President Obama's proposal for a short-term agreement between the administration and Congress to put off the across-the-board budget cuts. That would buy time to negotiate a deficit-reduction plan that takes priorities into account and backloads much of the spending cuts until the economy is on its feet.
Democrats, for their part, must, at a minimum, agree to reform of entitlement eligibility requirements.
The deficit-reduction plan should also be based on the principle of balance, or the use of some new revenue — derived in part by closing tax loopholes — along with spending cuts to reduce the deficit.
It would be wrong to put the entire burden of reducing the deficit on cutting spending on national security and on services that help middle-and lower-income Americans. Compromise is the answer.Copyright © 2015, CT Now