Exaggerated fiscal ‘crisis’

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board March 06, 2013 08:54 am

The aspect of the sequester debate that annoys us most is that the dollar amounts involved are so much smaller than the level of anxiety implies.

Non-defense domestic agencies have to get by with 5 percent less.

Plenty of American businesses and households have had much larger chunks plucked from their income over the past five years yet they managed to continue operating without drastic effects.

Millions of Americans had their paychecks shrink by 2 percent since the start of the year when the payroll tax “vacation” ended.

Yet there’s no evidence of economic Armageddon.

But the government’s different, right?

Not really, no. For most affected agencies, just as with most businesses, the biggest bill is paying the people who do the work.

We find it difficult to believe that the federal government can’t maintain its current level of service if each worker has to miss an extra day per month, or if agencies have to close a half-hour earlier than they do now, either of which would achieve the 5-percent goal.

That’s no crisis. It shouldn’t be, anyway.

We’re not so naive to believe that the sequester won’t have economic consequences, but for every minor effect — fewer air show performances by military stunt pilots, for instance — there are woeful tales of kids being sent home from Head Start, or babies deprived of formula.

That the sequester plan includes at least as many of the latter as the former suggests to us that these cuts were poorly planned from the start. Rather than deal with its budget issues in a sober, responsible way, as most Americans have done, their government relies on hyperbole and fear-mongering.