NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- President Obama is painting a dire picture if the House Republicans don't agree to raise taxes, yet again, to avert sequestration.
Unless the GOP agrees to a deal acceptable to Senate Democrats and the president to slash federal deficits by $1.2 trillion over ten years, $85 billion in across-the-board cuts will be imposed automatically on March 1 -- virtually all in defense and other non-entitlement spending.
Obama paints a painful picture. Three-hour airport security lines, fewer meat inspectors, furloughed air traffic controllers requiring cancellation of thousands of flights, teachers and police fired. Some 250,000 lost jobs throughout the economy.
Most of this does not have to happen. Department heads within government agencies have considerable discretion in balancing individual accounts, as required by the 2011 Budget Act.For example, the Department of Agriculture has one of the largest teams of research economists on the planet, and their dull reports should be cut before vital services like food inspections. Transferring administrative personnel to the economics department and furloughing a few more number crunchers would keep chicken and beef on the shelves. Even if all spending cuts were through headcount reductions in federal departments and among contractors, each $111,000 of spending in the U.S. economy equates to one job. Therefore, $85 billion, even if wholly taken out in direct layoffs, would imply about 77,000 jobs lost, not 250,000 as the president claims. Most layoffs can be avoided through partial furloughs -- a tactic Republican and Democratic governors employed during the Great Recession and the president could apply through executive orders. Apparently, Obama wants a crisis to push Republicans into accepting even higher taxes or losing at the polls in 2014. In January, the president got more than $85 billion in new taxes on the wealthy, higher payroll taxes for everyone, and an assortment of new levies on incomes, health insurance and medical devices through Obamacare. The president and Democratic congressional leaders refuse to acknowledge what every bipartisan budget panel has concluded. Genuine entitlement reforms are necessary to bring deficits down to manageable size and maintain national security and other vital government functions.