WSJ's Moore: Sequester Has Already Succeeded Beyond Expectations

Monday, 12 Aug 2013 12:23 PM

By Dan Weil

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The automatic government spending cuts that drew howls of protest from Washington when they began March 1 have turned out splendidly, says Stephen Moore, a Wall Street Journal editorial board member.

"The biggest underreported story out of Washington this year is that the federal budget is shrinking and much more than anyone in either party expected," he wrote Sunday.

Annual spending peaked at about $3.6 trillion in fiscal 2011. Many experts had expected outlays would reach $4 trillion by 2014, Moore reported.

Editor's Note: Controversial Book Outs Obama’s Uncharted Economy

Instead, spending dropped to $3.54 trillion in fiscal 2012, and is on track to dip below $3.45 trillion by Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2013. That would represent the first time government spending has decreased for two straight years since the end of the Korean War, Moore noted.

"This reversal from the spending binge in 2009 and 2010 began with the debt-ceiling agreement between Mr. Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in 2011," Moore said.

That accord included $2 trillion in spending caps for 10 years and spawned the sequester, which will save more than $50 billion this fiscal year.

"As long as Republicans don't foolishly undo this amazing progress by agreeing to Mr. Obama's demands for a 'balanced approach' to the 2014 budget in exchange for calling off the sequester, additional expenditure cuts will continue automatically," he added.

"In other words, Mr. Obama has inadvertently chained himself to fiscal restraints that could flatten federal spending for the rest of his presidency."

Moore said a return to normal economic growth could send the budget deficit lower at least through 2015.

"Already the deficit has fallen from its Mount Everest peak of 10.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2009, to about 4 percent this year . . . At least for now, the great Washington spending blitz of the Obama first term is over."

Moore, noting that half or more of the spending cuts have come from defense, said the military budget as a percentage of GDP is set to reach its lowest level since the Clinton administration.

"These deep cutbacks could be dangerous to national security, but as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were winding down, defense would have been cut under any scenario," he said.

"The sequester cuts in annual budgets for the military, education, transportation and other discretionary programs have also been an underappreciated success, with none of the anticipated negative consequences," Moore continued.

Moore cited the sequester as being responsible for curtailing runaway spending on programs long supported by liberals, such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Environmental Protection Agency and green energy subsidies, and National Public Radio.

"Liberals had hoped that re-electing Mr. Obama, the most pro-spending president since LBJ, would unleash another four years of Great Society government expansion. Instead, spending caps and the sequester are squashing these progressive dreams," he stated, admonishing Republicans to simply stay the course in their upcoming budget negotiations with the White House.

"All Republicans need to do is enforce the budget laws Mr. Obama has already agreed to."

Editor's Note: Controversial Book Outs Obama’s Uncharted Economy

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