Apocalypse Now? Seven Stats Illustrating Why Sequestration Isn’t a Huge Deal

As budget sequestration approaches, the White House has been on an all-out fear-offensive, claiming that should the cuts occur, Congress (i.e. Republicans) will be responsible for “devastating” cuts in emergency services, airport security, teachers, child-care, cancer screenings, border patrol agents, prison funding, etc. White House narrative summarized: Apocalypse.

A more rational analysis of the federal budget paints a calmer picture.  Despite all the hype, surprisingly little will change after sequestration takes effect on March 1. There will be a few minor cuts here and there, but overall, Congress will continue to spend more money than it has available and federal spending will continue to grow dramatically over time. Take these statistics:

1) Sequestration would only trim $85 billion from an overall budget of $3.6 trillion in fiscal year 2013 (of which approximately $900 billion will be deficit spending).  The cut amounts to approximately 2.4 percent of the current budget and is only about .5 percent of the $16 trillion U.S. GDP.

2) Even after sequestration, federal spending will continue to increase by nearly $2 trillion over the next decade.  Sequestration doesn’t cut spending; it merely slows the growth rate of projected spending.

3) Although sequestration will reduce the Defense budget by $492 billion over ten years, Defense spending will still climb 17 percent during that same period despite the scheduled draw down of operations in Afghanistan.

4) The budget of the Department of Transportation, which includes the Federal Aviation Administration, has grown 67 percent since 2008 (actually 548 percent between 2008 and 2010 if you include federal stimulus spending). After sequestration, DOT would be forced to cut $1 billion from its 2013 budget, which is still more than it spent in 2012.

5) The budget of the Department of Agriculture grew 16 percent between 2010 and 2013 to $155 billion. After sequestration, the Department’s 2013 budget is likely to be reduced by $1.9 billion. If the agency is looking for items to cut, President Obama’s proposed budget allocated $6.1 billion of the Department’s discretionary appropriations on renewable and clean energy “investments.”

6) The budget of the Department of Energy has grown 10 percent since 2008. If DOE was forced to cut its 2013 budget by 3 percent, the reduction would roughly equal the tax-payer losses from the Department’s loan to failed solar panel company Solyndra.

7) The budget of the Department of Education has grown 18 percent since 2008. A 2.5 percent cut in 2013 would reduce funding from President Obama’s proposed budget by approximately $1.7 billion. The Department’s “Head Start” program, an ineffective program according to several studies, currently costs $8 billion a year.

The impending budget sequestration has been called reckless, shameful and, most creatively, a “doomsday machine.”  In actuality, those are all great words to describe the nation’s current fiscal trajectory, even after sequestration.