Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reiterated Sunday that the automatic budget cuts that began taking effect March 1 were “modest” cuts that would keep the United States from turning into the Western European countries that have spent the last four years battling high unemployment and repeat recessions.
“We have a $16 trillion national debt,” McConnell said. “Our debt is as big as our economy. That alone makes us look like a Western European country.”
European unemployment hit a new record last week, and the Eurozone re-entered recession in November. Spain and Greece both have unemployment rates above 25 percent, and even Germany, the continent’s stalwart economy, is now contracting. Those struggles have largely occurred because Europe has attempted to reduce debt and deficit levels too quickly instead of focusing on growing the economy.
The United States took a different path after the Great Recession, choosing stimulus instead, and it has so far fared better than Europe. But it is now pursuing the same austere path Europe chose, with sequestration’s automatic budget cuts threatening to damage the recovery the U.S. has already made. McConnell claimed that “spending has exploded,” but while government spending has helped lead past economic recoveries, it has plateaued in the last four years and largely failed to help this recovery.
The cuts McConnell called “modest” will likely only make that worse. The Congressional Budget Office projects that it will lead to reduced economic growth and 750,000 lost jobs, and other projections show that it may hinder growth enough to prevent actual deficit reduction. But when Crowley asked McConnell to address those projections, he refused, saying only, “We promised the American people we’d do this a year and a half ago.”