In 2011, Obama proposed the sequester cuts — worth roughly $1.2 trillion over 10 years — as an exchange for the GOP’s agreement to raise the federal government’s debt limit up to $16 trillion to fund the government’s deficit spending past Election Day 2012.
Obama’s deputies say the sequester was intended as a stick to ensure that subsequent negotiations produced a package of tax increases and spending cuts that would trim the 10-year deficit by up to $1.5 trillion. The bipartisan “super committee” charged with coming up with such a deal failed to come to an agreement, triggering the sequester cuts.
But the president continues to demand more tax revenue to fund a more ambitious, far-reaching federal government. In December, for example, Obama and congressional Democrats blocked GOP efforts to keep taxes as they were, and forced a 10-year, over $600 billion tax increase.
Despite the increase, the federal debt is expected to reach at least $18.5 trillion — or roughly $30,000 per American — by the end of Obama’s second term because Obama has pushed to increase federal spending amid a stagnant economy that features high unemployment and stalled wages.
At the end of President George W. Bush’s term, the government’s debt was $11 trillion.
White House officials insist they’re not moving the 2011 goalposts because the president always wanted to raise taxes on wealthy Americans.
The demand for new taxes leads the White House’s new state-by-state list of sequester cuts.
“By not asking the wealthy to pay a little more, Republicans are forcing our children, seniors, troops, military families and the entire middle class to bear the burden of deficit reduction,” said the White House statement.
White House officials say they don’t have any control over how the sequester spending cuts are implemented, and have predicted they will cause air traffic delays, fewer food safety inspections, less law enforcement and fewer security checks at the U.S.-Mexico border.
But the president and Congress made the modest cuts more jarring by choosing to delay the cuts for two months.
The two-month delay means that $85 billion in immediate and planned 2013 spending must be cut during the remaining 10 months of 2013, instead of during the entire year, as set by the 2011 agreement.
The cuts are also concentrated on so-called discretionary spending, because Obama demanded that federal entitlement programs be exempted from cuts.
However, because of federal accounting rules, actual spending cuts in 2013 will be less than $85 billion.
That’s because many 2013 spending decisions by agencies are only commitments to spend money over the next several years. For example, budget rules say the agencies must account for major contracts — such as building a warship or a bridge — in the year a program is launched, even though the federal checks will be sent out over a period of several years.
So, even if the $85 billion in cuts are fully implemented, it will only slice an estimated $42 billion from spending in 2013, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office.