PolitiFact Weighs in on Obama and Sequestration

September 24, 2012

The Romney campaign is airing a television ad in Florida, and similar ads in other states, accusing President Obama of pushing “defense cuts” that “threaten thousands of jobs.”

“Romney’s plan?” the narrator continues, ”Reverse Obama’s defense cuts, strengthen our military, create over 700,000 jobs for Florida.”

PolitiFact decided to run Romney’s claim that Obama bears the blame for sequestration through their Truth-o-Meter. Their conclusion: Half true.

I agree. As I explained to PolitiFact researcher Angie Drobnic Holan, “The logic that lays the blame for sequestration at Obama’s feet, because he negotiated the [Budget Control Act] with GOP leaders in Congress, could just as easily apply to those other negotiators or, indeed, any member of Congress who voted for the BCA in August 2011.”

Although a majority of Republicans voted for the BCA, some members were opposed to raising the debt ceiling under any circumstance. Still others thought that the cuts were not deep enough. Notably, a few members of Congress voted against the BCA because they opposed even the possibility of Pentagon spending cuts. Those Republicans who voted in favor and are now having a case of “buyer’s remorse” can’t reasonably claim that they didn’t know that such cuts were possible, nor that the cuts are “Obama’s cuts.”

I wish that the PolitiFact folks had focused on Romney’s jobs numbers (they still might, I’m told) because they are grossly inflated. Under the sequestration provision of last year’s BCA, domestic discretionary and defense spending will each be cut by about $54 billion in FY2013. The claim that these cuts will result in massive job losses derives from several flawed studies commissioned by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) that have been discredited, including herehere, and here.

I have observed here that military spending cuts might actually be good for the economy. As with other government spending programs, military spending shifts resources from the private sector and/or from some other agency within the public sector. In other words, government doesn’t create jobs so much as moves jobs from one industry to another or from one place to another. Gov. Romney understands this with respect to most other government spending, but he has an obvious blind spot when it comes to military spending. (I doubt that he would accept at face value the Chicago teachers union’s claims about the supposedly horrific effects that cuts in education spending would have on the wider economy, for example.)

I don’t blame the AIA (or the unions, for that matter) for peddling scary tales in order to reverse legislation that might cut into its members’ profits. That is, after all, what these companies pay the AIA to do: lobby the federal government to spend more taxpayer dollars on their clients/members. I do fault Mitt Romney and others for falling victim to this ploy—and therefore reducing the likelihood that overall government spending will ever come down, as it should.

In a perfect world, politicians would be fighting with one another over who gets credit for cutting federal spending and reducing the burden of debt that we are piling onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. They should certainly stop trying to portray such cuts as massive or draconian, because they are anything but the sort (and PolitiFact might call them on that as well).

Sequestration isn’t the best way to cut out-of-control federal spending, but it might be the only way, as Dan Mitchell, Ben Friedman, and I explain in this recent video:


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