Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Prescott) on Saturday in Payson hailed the onset of $85 billion in federal spending cuts as a result of automatic cuts triggered Friday.
“Finally, you’ll see some cuts,” Gosar said to more than 75 Republicans gathered for the Lincoln Day Luncheon at Tiny’s restaurant. “They’re small cuts — 2.4 percent. We should have cut the 98 percent and kept the 2 percent.
Gosar said letting the “sequester” cuts take effect represents a successful strategy by the Republicans to cut federal spending without raising taxes.
He insisted that the struggle to drastically reduce both taxes and federal spending represents a fight for the nation’s survival.
He said President Barack Obama “wants to break your back. He wants to run wild and break this country. The fighting has to stop,” he said referring to infighting among conservatives. “We are all conservatives under a tent. The Democrats and the Progressives want to destroy you. We cannot win a statewide election if we are not unified.”
He said the cuts made as a result of the sequester barely touch the real problem, which remains spending increases for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which provides medical care for the poor and nursing home care for impoverished seniors.
“If you do not get back the Senate and do not keep the House in two years, you will lose this country. You will be managing our bankruptcy,” he told about 75 people at the luncheon.
The sequester cuts stemmed from a deal between the Democrats and Republicans before the election to win Republican support for a vote to raise the debt ceiling. The two sides at that point agreed to adopt the automatic, across-the-board cuts in discretionary military and domestic spending, but defer them until after the election. Both sides assumed they could negotiate more targeted cuts before Friday’s deadline.
However, President Obama sought a mix of tax increases and targeted spending cuts, while Republicans offered more flexibility on the specific cuts while opposing any tax increases or any reduction in the total amount cut — which adds up to some $1.1 trillion over 10 years. During the original negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner, Obama had raised the possibility of a $6 trillion reduction in the projected deficit with a mix of cuts and tax increases, but House Republicans balked at the tax hikes, which led to the sequester alternative.
Senate Democrats offered a bill to replace the sequester cuts with a mix of tax increases and other spending cuts. However, their bill would have actually increased the deficit, according to news reports.
The Office of Management and Budget issued a report on the cuts last week. The deputy director of the non-partisan budget analysis office Jeffrey Zients wrote “the cuts required by sequestration will be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments and core government functions.”
The cuts represent just 2 percent of federal spending overall, but excluding entitlement programs concentrated the cuts on discretionary spending. As a result, the sequester will result in a 9 percent cut in the non-defense budget and a 13 percent cut in defense spending, according to the administration.
The OMB estimated that the reductions would cost the economy about 750,000 jobs and knock half a percent off the growth rate.
However, Gosar predicted that most people won’t feel much effect from the federal spending reductions. “The fear mongering just did not work,” said Gosar. “This president tried to box in the Republicans.”
Instead, he said the Republicans decoupled several issues, including a decision on letting the Bush tax cuts expire, a vote on the sequester and an upcoming vote on whether to again raise the national debt ceiling, which allows the government to make payments on money borrowed to pay for spending previously authorized by Congress.
Gosar said the Republican strategy finally forced Senate President Harry Reid (D-Nevada) to promise to introduce a full-fledged budget. For the past four years, the House has passed budgets, but the Senate has instead relied on continuing resolutions to keep the government running. A budget allows Congress much more control over how the federal government spends money than does a continuing resolution. Gosar said that the tactic “flipped” the public blame for the budget impasse from Republicans to Democrats, forcing Reid to promise to introduce a budget.
However, a Pew Research Center poll found that 49 percent blame House Republicans and only 31 percent blame Obama for the standoff. Other national polls have come to similar conclusions, with anger directed at both parties.
However, Gosar said the public would hold Obama and Senate Democrats responsible.
“We just couldn’t blink — and that’s what happened Friday. We didn’t blink.”
He said the Republicans would introduce a measure to “redefine how the military cuts occur.” Moreover, he said that when the Democrats in the Senate introduce a budget, it will have to take responsibility for its decisions.
“If the Environmental Protection Agency is implementing the Clean Air Act, with a budget Congress can say you can spend the money here, but not there. With a Continuing Resolution we can’t do that. How do you defund ObamaCare? That’s hard to do without control of the Senate. My fingers and toes are very sore from sticking them in the dike and trying to hold back this spending.”
In the end, he insisted that the sequester cuts will barely make a dent in a $16 trillion deficit that grows by $1 trillion every year.
“You can take military spending to zero and discretionary domestic spending to zero — and you’re still running a deficit just on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” said Gosar.
An analysis by the Heritage Foundation shows that in 2012 about 22 percent of federal spending goes to Medicare and Medicaid, 21 percent to Social Security and 19 percent to other entitlement programs, like welfare and unemployment. National defense accounts for about 20 percent, education about 4 percent, interest about 6 percent and foreign affairs about 1 percent. All other federal spending accounts for just 8 percent of the budget.
All told, entitlement programs account for 62 percent of federal spending, with the bulk of that going to seniors. The cost of programs providing medical care have increased much faster than any other component of the federal budget. This year’s $3.5 trillion federal budget includes a $1.1 trillion deficit, although projections suggest the deficit will fall to about $800 billion in the upcoming fiscal year.
Entitlements accounted for 27 percent of federal spending in 1962, but this year consumed 62 percent of the budget. The White House Office of Management and Budget estimates that entitlements will account for 68 percent of federal spending in 2017, without changes.
• Defense: $47 billion
• Medicare: $9.9 billion
• Domestic: $29 billion
• $6.4 billion from states
• $2 billion from housing subsidies
• Child care for 30,000 children
• $1.3 billion in education
• Head Start slots for 70,000 children
• $43 million from food for poor seniors
• $150 million from immigration control
• 46,000 education jobs
Source: Office of Management and Budget