Looking for a surefire weight-loss plan? I've got a plan that is guaranteed to reduce your weight by one pound. Now, you may think this isn't much of weight-loss plan, but maybe it's worth doing anyway; after all, it can't be a particularly grueling regimen if you're only losing a pound, right? Here's the weight-loss plan: We cut off your hand.
Okay, that's a pretty bad idea. Not only does it leave you crippled, you're just as fat as you were before. This might be the dumbest weight-loss plan imaginable. And it has a lot in common with sequestration, which might be the dumbest deficit-reduction plan imaginable. Its cuts fall disproportionately on the Department of Defense, and the across-the-board nature of the cuts mean hacking away at the defense budget not by closing unnecessary bases or canceling misguided procurements, but by delaying refueling and maintenance on carrier strike groups that should be deployed.
Now, the sequester was designed to be dumb -- it was supposed to be something everyone would want to avert. The White House proposed it thinking that it would force a deficit-reduction deal. The problem with this is that while no one thinks sequestration is a great idea, President Obama is committed to the wildly irresponsible notion that any deal that doesn't include tax increases would be, as he said in his State of the Union address, "even worse." This is particularly odd given how alarmist his administration has been about the effects of sequestration, making claims about its impact on domestic spending that are patently false. If those who are too sanguine about sequestration are claiming the Lose a Hand Weight-Loss Plan is no big deal because you'll only lose a pound, the Obama administration is claiming that you'll also lose both legs -- and that somehow this is preferable to a deal without tax hikes.
Tax increases are a non-starter with Republicans in Congress. Anything else is apparently a non-starter with Democrats. Even ceding the congressional power of the purse to the executive branch, giving the administration authority to make targeted rather than across-the-board cuts, is apparently off the table; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to block such a proposal. The Democrats have made clear: Either the Pentagon gets it, or taxpayers get it. Protecting taxpayers remains the GOP's prime mission. And so the U.S. military will have to make do with one hand and a stump, and the world will be a little more dangerous.