The sequester deadline came and, lo and behold, the United States did not turn into a pumpkin or suffer an economic collapse. That isn’t surprising to those who know history and economics: Reductions in federal spending (real reductions, that is, not just smaller-than-planned increases such as we debate today) unleashed powerful economic growth in the 1920s and then again in the late 1940s. Both of those periods featured reductions in federal spending that were far more radical than anything even being proposed today. The booms that followed those shrinkages of government illustrate the basic principle, confirmed time after time both here and abroad, that economic growth is far more robust when government gets out of the way than when it intervenes in and interferes with the private sector.
Still, the choices that President Obama has made, in terms of where to cut spending and where to maintain or increase it, raise many concerns. His response to his failure to convince Republicans to commit political suicide and betray their constituents by raising taxes to avert the sequester has been spiteful and immature—a veritable public policy tantrum.
Obama’s decision to use the sequester as a pretext to suspend tours of the White House has received, quite rightly, considerable attention. Slamming the door of the White House in the face of children is, taken alone, churlish. Combine that, though, with the president’s decision, shortly before the sequester deadline, to spend a million taxpayer dollars so that he could have a private golf outing with Tiger Woods, and we have something much worse. Such behavior manifests contempt for the people of this country—a “let them eat cake” haughtiness.
Another perplexing spending priority has come to light in the area of defense spending. According to a report out of George Washington University, Team Obama is debating abandoning and torching 750,000 pieces of military hardware (trucks, aircraft, armored vehicles, etc.) in Afghanistan—equipment worth $36 billion—rather than spend an estimated $5.7 billion to retrieve it. Maybe I’m missing something, but wouldn’t most governments jump at the opportunity to have an extra $36 billion of assets at their disposal for the relatively bargain price of $5.7 billion?
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