Again and again in social media, I see posts that say the solution to our current fiscal mess is to cut federal spending by 5-10%. These well-meaning people truly believe that our government simply has a “spending problem” and the simple answer is to cut cut cut. Here’s my reply to the “cut spending” chorus who think we should slash government now to protect their grandchildren’s future:
You’re worried about throwing your grandchildren into poverty? I’m worried about the people living in or near poverty today. If it was as easy as cutting 5% across the board, the people in DC would just do it and move on.
Unfortunately, they tried it. The plan is called “sequestration.” It may still happen. Under that plan, government would be forced to cut $1.2 Trillion in spending over ten years, or about $100 Billion a year. That’s only 2.6% of the $3.8 Trillion federal budget. And yet every single expert – including the Tea Party congressmen who voted for it – acknowledge it would be an economic armageddon.
But you throw around platitudes like “just cut 5-10% across the board.” Do you even know what that means? Cutting that much means throwing millions of people out of work.
It means cutting defense contracts, which means cutting hundreds of thousands of defense industry jobs. High-tech jobs that aren’t easily replaced. Careers ended. Mortgages defaulted. Families in ruins.
It means cutting millions of teachers and first responders, whose salaries are subsidized by federal grants. Which means larger class sizes and slower emergency response times. Which means lower GPAs and more DOAs.
It means infrastructure that goes untended, roads and flood prevention that don’t get built, and bridges that collapse. And yet more DOAs.
It means seniors who don’t get the healthcare they need, and going back to the days when old people lived on cat food and froze to death in winter.
And it means Medicaid patients – the poorest and most vulnerable among us – go untreated. It means children with physical disabilities bankrupting their families and throwing even more people into poverty.
Which means more foreclosures, lower home values, and greater financial pain for Americans across the board – even the self-sufficient.
And most of all, if you slash the federal budget, you create an austerity recession that would be worse than the U.S. in 2008 or Spain and Greece today.
Like it or not, our government – federal and state – are a huge part of our economy. You don’t jumpstart economic growth by cutting 5% out of the largest component in the economy.
Let’s remember that when we cut dollars, we cut people. People who bleed. People who starve.
It’s easy to pick a percentage you’d like to cut out of the federal budget. It’s not as easy when you have to cut by name, age and face.