The looming federal budget cuts known as sequester will have devastating impacts in Wisconsin – or not. Not surprisingly, views about the sequester diverge along party lines among members of the state’s congressional delegation.
“The sequester is a classic example of something that no one ever thought would happen,” said Madison Democrat, U.S. Representative Mark Pocan. “It was a terrible idea.” But Congressman Reid Ribble, a Green Bay Republican, said it’s nonsense to cast blame for the sequester, as the House and Senate voted on it and President Barack Obama signed it. “This is one-half of one percent of the U.S. economy,” Ribble said. “It’s a tiny, tiny number. It’s not anywhere near enough to impact the economy nationally.”
The cutbacks known as the sequester would slash $85 billion from domestic and defense spending in 2013, and reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over a decade. The policy was adopted in 2011 and was designed to be so draconian that it would force both sides to make concessions to reduce the deficit.
Pocan, who was just elected to the House in November, believes the failure to avoid the sequester can be attributed to doing things the Washington way. “In Wisconsin, if your ‘check oil’ light comes on, generally we get it checked and add oil to the engine. In Washington, they wait until the engine comes to a grinding halt, and then they go back and repair the engine,” said Pocan. “I just don’t find that to be a particularly logical or useful approach.”
The deadline for reaching some sort of sequester deal is Friday. Ribble thinks there could be a deal that would allow departments of the federal government to prioritize where the cuts will be. “I don’t think there’s going to be a deal on the top line number. Bit I think there is room to change how the top line number is applied,” he said.
The Obama administration on Sunday released details on how the automatic spending reductions would impact every state.