By: Tim Cavanaugh
While most of official Washington is panicking over the prospect of budget sequestration set to kick in on Jan. 1, one congressman says the fiscal trigger is the best prospect the country currently has for getting spending under control.
“Sequestration’s the only hope we have to get spending under control,” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), who sits on the House Budget Committee, told Human Events this week. “I would like to see adjustments made within the sequestration levels to reduce the cuts to defense spending, spending. But it’s the only chance we have to avoid a sovereign debt crisis.”
As both a California Republican and a committed fiscal hawk, McClintock is a vanishing breed within a vanishing breed. Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), for example, has been vociferous in his opposition to the defense-spending sequester outlined in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA).
McClintock sympathizes with that view. “I opposed the BCA because of the disproportionate focus on defense cuts,” he said. So why does he think sequestration (a set of automatic spending cuts, outlined in the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act, that kick in if the deficit exceeds a target) is the best solution to uncontrolled spending?
“It’s not the best thing we have. It’s the only thing we have,” he said, noting that negotiations to reduce spending between President Obama and Republicans (who are set to begin “fiscal cliff” negotiations Friday) have failed to produce any reductions. “I think we need to fix the disproportionate adjustments in defense spending. Failing that, sequestration is still the only tool we have. Sequestration is an agreement Congress made with itself. If we can’t even keep that agreement, we’re going to be looking at another federal credit downgrade this year.”
In 2011, Standard and Poor’s, Fitch Ratings, and Moody’s Investor Service all lowered their ratings for Federal credit. Moody’s warned of another potential downgrade in September.
While McClintock sees budget sequesters as a possible brake in the near-term, he warns that budget health won’t come without major changes to spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and entitlements. “We can’t save the nation from bankruptcy without entitlement reform,” he said. Is he optimistic about that level of reform coming in the current fiscal cliff talks? “I’ve been waiting for president to call me to say what’s on the table. He hasn’t called me.”
This month’s election brought nothing but pain for the GOP in McClintock’s home state, and he says the party needs some reforms of its own. “I have read California state constitution,” he said. “There’s not a word in it that requires California to be governed by idiots forever. Republicans need to decide whether they’re just going to be another wing of the Democratic Party or stand for individual liberty and constitutional principles. Dick Armey was right: When we act like us we win; when we act like them we lose.”
Tim Cavanaugh is a contributor to Reason Magazine and Human Events.