As the threat of the Washington D.C. sequestration budget cuts loom, Obama and Democrats are haplessly trying to assign blame, while some conservatives have claimed that the effects of the sequester have been overblown and that it will not be as bad as the President claims. All of this misses the point, however, because as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told congress on February 27, allowing these automatic cuts to go into effect will hurt efforts to reduce deficits in the short term.
There may be a small fraction of conservative voters out there who are just so unhappy about the size of the government that they are just happy that there will be any cut to any part of the federal government, but that is not how most Americans feel. Not only will cutting money from discretionary domestic spending and military spending depress economic activity, thus making any deficit reduction more difficult, but the real fuel behind future deficits and debt, health care, is largely untouched.
When politicians in both parties whip up the specter of massive debts being passed on to future generations, but then just push plans for cutting discretionary spending, or military spending it is because they want the reputation of a deficit hawk without having to make the tough calls an actual deficit hawk might have to make. Although there may be some things worth cutting in both the aforementioned areas, it is no secret that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are the real long term concerns when it comes to deficits and debt. Cutting education, transportation, and research and development to avoid making tough decisions on entitlement programs is not only a massive selling-out of the future, but it is also fiscally and politically dishonest. If either party were serious about more than the illusion of being tough on the deficit, the current argument would be about why the spending cuts in the sequester come from the wrong areas of the budget, instead of whose idea they were.