Make Sequestration Less Bad

A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 21 2013 10:08 AM

Making Sequestration Work Better

158090360
ATLANTIC OCEAN - DECEMBER 9: In this handout from the U.S. Navy, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator taxies on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman December 9, 2012 in the Atalntic Ocean.

Photo by Cristina Young/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

There are essentially two parts to the sequestration cuts that are coming at the beginning of the month. One is the quantity of funds that each agency is going to see axed, the other is the legal mandate to cut that spending in a totally indiscriminate manner. Backing off the total quantity and shape of the cuts might be nice, but basic partisan political considerations seem to make it impossible. But backing off the indiscriminate aspect seems like a win-win. The idea was that by making the cuts indiscriminate that would somehow increase members of congress' incentives to come together on a grand bargain. Instead it's served to increase their incentives to focus on political positioning, since they simply don't agree on a long-term budget vision.

At any rate, the indiscriminacy is so substantively pointless at the current date that even though I think the first eight paragraphs of this National Review editorial are basically misleading and pernicious nonsense, the ninth and final paragraph is right on:

Advertisement

In the face of poor alternatives, it is best to accept the new spending levels for 2013, including decreased defense spending, and to focus on ensuring that the slightly smaller pool of money is managed slightly more intelligently — by, for instance, giving agency managers discretion about where the cuts come from in the near term and using the appropriations process to allocate future cuts in the out-years. This assumes, of course, that slightly more intelligence is possible in Washington.

This would not be a "good outcome" by any means, but it is basic good sense. Let the military and domestic discretionary functions live within the budget caps set by the sequester, but let the various agency managers decide what's important and what's not rather than just slicing across the board. At any given level of federal spending, we should try to set priorities.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Science

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 17 2014 5:21 PM Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS But the next president might. 
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM Should Men Still Open Doors for Women? Or is it ungentlemanly to do so at all?  
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 4:36 PM Is Nonfiction the Patriarch of Literary Genres?
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 5:31 PM Did You Catch Walter White’s Blink-and-You’ll-Miss-It Cameo in Godzilla?
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 5:26 PM If Fixing Global Warming Is Free, What’s the Holdup?
  Health & Science
Jurisprudence
Sept. 17 2014 4:49 PM Schooling the Supreme Court on Rap Music Is it art or a true threat of violence?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?