Barbour: ‘Only Thing Worse Than Sequester is No Savings’

Tuesday, 26 Feb 2013 09:51 PM

By Dan Weil and John Bachman

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The automatic spending cuts set to begin Friday (the sequester) aren’t the ideal weapon for fighting our spending addiction, but can help a bit if handled properly, says former Mississippi GOP Gov. Haley Barbour.

“The sequester is certainly imperfect,” Barbour tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview. “However, the only thing worse than the sequester is no savings. When managed right, this is not a problem.”

As governor of Mississippi, Barbour had to cut spending by 9.4 percent in fiscal 2009. “I don’t think the public noticed the difference,” he says. “It was done in a well-managed way.”

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee the Obama administration will manage this well, says Barbour, who also was head of the Republican Governors Association, and chairman of the Republican National Committee.

“What concerns me is the administration talks like they’re going to try to make this as awful as they can, instead of trying to figure out how to manage it,” he says. “The administration is trying to scare people. If they’re trying to scare people, then the vested interest of the administration is to make it a calamity.”

Story continues below the video.

Scaring people is what gives Democrats a political advantage, Barbour says. “They’re not in favor of savings.” Democrats insist there’s no spending problem, he says. “But we do have a spending problem. Spending has skyrocketed under the Obama administration.”

It’s all about management. “I know Obama’s never managed anything in his career, but if he’s got guys that will manage this properly, there’s not going to be any big issue,” Barbour says.

In Mississippi, for example, the White House trumpeted a $5.5 million cut in federal aid to K-12 education. But that’s little more than 0.1 percent of the system’s $4.5 billion annual budget, Barbour notes. “If you can’t manage that, you can’t manage a two-car funeral.”

He expects House Republicans to give President Obama some room in how the cuts are applied. “They will say within the agency, you can move money around between accounts to chew the savings,” Barbour says. “That is so simple, and they [Obama administration officials] have a lot more latitude today then they’re letting on.”

In the end, “we’re taking about very small savings,” he says. The sequester takes off only $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years from spending that was slated to reach $46 trillion, Barbour says.

“It’s going to be very manageable. I’m scared the Obama people want it to seem as bad as possible because they know more cuts have to be made.”

On the issue of whether governors should accept the federal government’s money for Medicaid under Obamacare, Barbour said it’s a tough call.

“It’s a very difficult decision when the federal government is going put a whole bunch of people on Medicaid and for three years pay 100 percent of the costs,” he says. Then after all the people are added, the federal government promises to pay 90 percent of the cost forever. Barbour doesn’t believe that will happen, but it’s hard for governors to turn down the money.

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