At the second meeting of the budget conference set up as part of the deal to reopen the government in October, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told his colleagues that he thinks “sequestration is working.”
After lawmakers asked that Director of the Congressional Budget Office Doug Elmendorf outline the ways that CBO has estimated sequestration will hurt the economy, he insisted that it is working. But he also had some strong words for his Republican counterparts in the House who have put forward proposals that would give defense more funding while shifting the burden to non-defense spending:
We’ve heard voices this morning about sequestration being bad. Something that was adopted in a bipartisan, bicameral and with white house support… I don’t know how we could hear that particularly since sequestration is working.
I’d like to give a caution about rumors that we hear about sequestration, that there’ll be compromise on sequestration so we can spend more on defense… Compromising on sequester for more money for the military I think is shortsighted and hopefully those suggestions that you hear primarily out of the House of Representatives won’t be pursued… I hope you remember to keep our eye on the ball: the ball is our economy and jobs.
Grassley is the latest Republican lawmaker to decide that sequestration is a positive thing after they initially tried to pin President Obama with the blame for the automatic, across-the-board cuts.
But it’s hard to find evidence to support the idea that it’s working. The budget deficit would be in better shape without the deep cuts. The CBO estimates that undoing sequestration now could add as much as 1.2 percent to GDP growth and 1.6 million jobs to the economy. It’s been a drag on growth, consumer spending, and wages.
And it’s devastated a variety of important programs. Head Start has kicked preschoolers off the rolls, Meals on Wheels delivers less food, housing agencies have denied low-income families help with paying rent, domestic violence programs have turned victims away, scientists have shuttered projects, and schools have fired staff, closed locations, and increased class sizes. More than 650,000 defense workers were furloughed, cancer patients were denied chemotherapy, unemployment checks have been reduced, and services for the homeless are being pulled back.