Congressman Randy Forbes, a Virginia Republican.
The point of the hearing, held by the House Armed Services Committee, was to discuss ways to avoid the “sequestration” cuts scheduled to take place because Congress couldn’t bring itself to find the $1.2 trillion in budget cuts it promised it would, when it raised the debt ceiling last summer.
Members of Congress and the White House agreed to sequestration to show they were serious about cutting the budget. But they weren’t. And they are even less so now, as Zients’ words — and Congress’ response — show.
“The right course is not to spend time moving around rocks at the bottom of a cliff to make for a less painful landing,” Zients said. “The right course is to avoid driving off the cliff altogether.”
Like several committee members, Speaker of the House John Boehner on Wednesday blamed the administration.
“The president came up with the sequester because he didn’t want the debt limit to get in the way of his re-election campaign. He insisted on the devastating defense cuts that his own secretary of defense says will ‘hollow out’ our Armed Forces and threaten America’s national security,” Boehner said. “The responsibility is his.”
But it wasn’t the White House alone. Boehner himself signed onto the sequestration agreement.
When the $100 billion in cuts come on Jan. 2, 2013, the nation’s military will be hardest hit.
That’s unacceptable — at least, it should be unacceptable to both Congress and the White House.
Zeints and the Obama administration have a duty to present a workable package of cuts. And Congress is duty-bound to present a realistic package, as well.
The White House, of course, should know better than to insist on including punitive tax hikes on those earning $250,000 or more annually — such a measure has no chance of passing before the election.
And in fact, those proposed tax hikes would do little to fill the $1.2 trillion hole Congress finds itself in. Zeints didn’t clarify what he meant by “their fair share,” but if the U.S. confiscated every dime made by the nation’s top earners, it wouldn’t cover even half the yearly deficit.
So it’s time to stop blaming the rich, or Bush, or Wall Street, or the White House — it’s time to get serious about cutting spending.