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Originally appearing in the Baltimore Sun 2/20/2013

If Congress fails to deal with the looming threat of sequestration, March 1 will be devastating for millions of Americans. That will be the day that automatic, across-the-board spending cuts begin to take effect — cutting $1.2 trillion from defense and nondefense programs over the next 10 years.

Sequestration was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, but the American Taxpayer Relief Act delayed it until March 1. Time is running out, and we must find a way to work together to reduce our deficit and avoid sequestration. Any approach to the deficit should include an assessment of our national needs along with a fair and comprehensive deficit-reduction plan. Setting arbitrary targets through sequestration will only serve to threaten many programs that provide important services to people in Maryland and across the country.

Sequestration is not just about numbers; it is about Americans, and if it happens, it will take a terrible human toll. I have met with federal employees from across Maryland, and there is great alarm at the thought of sequestration — not just because of a loss of wages, but because Americans depend on what our federal workers do.

At a recent town hall meeting, a National Institutes of Health employee asked me how sequestration would affect lifesaving research into such diseases as cancer, Parkinson's disease, AIDS and other serious illnesses. This employee was right to be concerned; sequestration could have a profoundly destructive effect on research into important medical and scientific advances.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, sequestration for fiscal 2013 alone would require across-the-board cuts of approximately $42.7 billion in defense and another $42.7 billion in nondefense spending. Cuts in government services would be felt by everyone, from the Department of Agriculture's farm support and food safety inspection programs to payments to Medicare providers and cuts in scientific research and energy assistance programs. It also would cause serious harm to our military and, I believe, jeopardize our nation's ability to respond to foreign threats.

Sequestration does not bode well for Maryland, home to 60 nonmilitary federal facilities and 17 military facilities. More than 300,000 Marylanders work for the federal government in civilian and military jobs, making our state particularly vulnerable to sequestration. The Maryland Board of Revenue Estimates projects that sequestration could mean a loss of 12,600 jobs, resulting in a reduction of Maryland's wage and salary base by $2.5 billion.

Maryland faces major education funding cuts that would affect both teachers and children. The Board of Revenue Estimates projects that our state could lose $55 million in education funding in the upcoming year. That could mean that as many as 900 children would not be able to enroll in Head Start, and the state could lose 500 teachers, along with many other serious cuts to educational programs.

Such across-the-board cuts would seriously harm our nation's economy. In fact, the recent Gross Domestic Product report for the fourth quarter of 2012 showed a 0.1 percent decline in our economy, due primarily to reductions in government spending, particularly in defense.

Sequestration can be avoided if we act now. We already took significant steps to cut spending when we passed the Budget Control Act of 2011, reducing spending by $1.5 trillion. In January, we achieved approximately $600 billion in additional revenue when we passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act. We are two-thirds of the way there.

We still need approximately $1.4 trillion in deficit reduction, which I believe is achievable. Sequestration is a meat-ax approach to our deficit problem that would harm future economic growth. Instead, we should follow a more balanced approach and pursue a budget plan that includes both increased revenues and decreased spending.

On the revenue side, we need to look at ending tax preferences for the oil and gas industries, limiting itemized deductions for wealthier families and closing tax loopholes that allow some to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. On the spending side, we need to bring down health care costs, which will create significant savings. We also have to factor in significant reductions in spending as we withdraw our troops from Afghanistan and reorganize our military to better face the threat of terrorism.

The American people are tired of these budget showdowns and stopgap measures. It is time to develop comprehensive and fair solutions that will solve our long-term deficit problems. We can choose to stay on the same, divisive path, or we can choose to work together in the spirit of mutual respect and compromise on a comprehensive budget deal. I hope we make the right choice — to work together — because our future depends on it.

Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, is a member of the Senate's Environment & Public Works, Finance, Foreign Relations and Small Business and Entrepreneurship committees. His website is You can follow him on Twitter @SenatorCardin.

Originally posted to Senator Ben Cardin on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 08:38 AM PST.

Also republished by Dream Menders.

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Comment Preferences

  •  If "bring down health care costs" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rich in PA, MichelleSmith, MKinTN

    means cuts in Medicare, you will not have my vote in 2014 and 2016.  Say what you mean.  I am totally not supporting anything unless I know what's in the fine print.  By putting Medicare and Social Security ages and chained CPI on the table, the party has lost my trust.  Are they still on the table?  Who knows?  I don't know what you stand for anymore and no one gets any form of support from me until I know what your cuts include.  

    I'll start worrying about the deficit when my paltry interest gets over ZERO and since it is ZERO I certainly cannot afford cuts to Social Security or Medicare.  

  •  Sorry, Maryland, I'm all in for sequestration (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenbell, MichelleSmith, MKinTN

    I understand that Maryland has done well during our current recession because it received a disproportionate amount of federal spending and employment.  I can't place Maryland's well-being over the well-being of people regardless of state who would be hurt much more by any "compromise" this President and Congress are likely to come up with than they are by across-the-board "stupid" cuts. Since not caring about the deficit at all (my first option) isn't on the table because Republicans won't permit a budget like that, I am going with the blunt instrument that Republicans were foolish enough to put out there even though it's more humane than what they insist upon and what Democrats, including the diarist, would likely end up conceding.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 08:58:59 AM PST

  •  Right. "Sequestration" is another word for (5+ / 0-)

    rationing.  We already know from long experience that rationing never has the desired result of stretching resources out. Instead, rationing leads to hoarding and hoarding makes the scarece resource even scarcer.

    That's bad enough, but rationing dollars is even worse, for the simple reason that dollars are not scarce.  Quite the opposite, since dollars are a man-made utility, their production is virtually infinite, especially when they are moved from the Treasury to the Federal Reserve with a few strokes on a key-board.

    The question is why does the Congress, which is tasked with managing the currency, persist in pretending that there is not enough money?  The answer, one suspects, is because Congress has traditionally doled out public resources and assets to whomever they can count on to effect their one desideratum, continuation in office. So, now that many natural resources are indeed becoming scarce and the public insists that they be leased, not given outright as grants or gifts, monetary distributions seem like a viable and even preferred alternative. But, if the receipt of money is to be appreciated, it has to be made to appear privileged.  A utility to which everyone has access doesn't look like much of a boon with which to extort votes from the electorate.
    What does seem to work quite well is to threaten various segments of the electorate with a variety of deprivations (no health care for women, no food for children, no water for farmers, no disaster relief funds), so that when the threatened deprivations are rescinded, people will feel grateful, sort of like a dog appreciates not being beaten. It's an abusive pattern and some of the Congress critters have it down pat.
    To the extent that this behavior is designed to keep them in office, these legislators are not unlike the unjust steward in the parable.

    Luke 16:1-13

    Indeed, when some people are relieved of paying their fair share of the public expenses, the legislators who engineer that are just like the unjust steward who wrote down what his master's debtors owed him. Giving away what somebody else owns is fraud. However, as Jesus recognized and which accounts for His tacit acceptance of what happened, when someone has been hired as a steward or agent, he's got a right to act as he thinks best, even if it goes against the master's interest. All the master can do is fire the agent, as the parable relates.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 09:29:09 AM PST

  •  All Due Respect Senator, I won't be frightened. (6+ / 0-)

    You are a senator.

    If you want to give the defense hawk bullies your lunch money, be my guest, but they won't get mine.

    Do your job.

    Arbitrary cuts to vital programs is idiotic.

    Repeal the sequester.

    Repeal the debt limit ceiling legislation.

    Sit down and construct a proper budget that includes a sustained high return ratio stimulus package  to create the decent jobs needed across the nation for sustained growth.

    In case you haven't noticed, the deficit is shrinking.

    Yes the defense industry has made it hard for you to say no to their demands by spreading their operations into just about state and congressional district.

    Quit whining and do something about it  like I don't know... creating non defense jobs in the same states.

    Life is hard and then you die.

    If you aren't willing to risk losing your job to do the right thing by putting Americans to work, you don't deserve to have the job.

    I will not accept one cent of cuts to vital programs and neither should you.

    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. Voltaire

    by leftover on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 09:30:56 AM PST

  •  Rec'd for showing up (6+ / 0-)

    but not tipped, for not bothering to engage in dialogue of any kind.  This is a community site, not a bulletin board.  At least have a staffer hang around for 30 minutes next time.

    Here is what I would have asked about:

    Sequestration can be avoided if we act now. We already took significant steps to cut spending when we passed the Budget Control Act of 2011, reducing spending by $1.5 trillion. In January, we achieved approximately $600 billion in additional revenue when we passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act. We are two-thirds of the way there.

    We still need approximately $1.4 trillion in deficit reduction, which I believe is achievable. Sequestration is a meat-ax approach to our deficit problem that would harm future economic growth. Instead, we should follow a more balanced approach and pursue a budget plan that includes both increased revenues and decreased spending.

    Really?  Why do "we" need this number? And what is the basis for it?  I think it could have originated with the Catfood Commission, but as far as I know it came from Professor Otto Yerass (h/t Charlie Pierce). The CBO is changing its projections, and the deficit is dropping more rapidly than at any time since WWII, but august persons such as yourself continue to parrot this number as if it means something.

    It is infuriating that Democrats keep adopting Republican frames, beginning with the President.  We don't need to be talking about deficits at all right now, and doing so just takes all the oxygen away from what we really need, which is jobs and more government spending.  When Democrats brag about the cuts, as you did in this diary, you just feed the beast on the other side.  You should be ashamed of them, not bragging about them.  You should be demanding that the President stop bleating about balance, i.e., chained CPI and other atrocities, and do what he was elected to do.

  •  call 'the sequester' ...'the austerity' (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichelleSmith, a2nite, MKinTN

    at which point the collective mass of 'the thing' in DC will collectively lose thier collective lunch, dinner and all else discharge related.

    oh, we'll hear, 'the sequester' is not 'the austerity' it's the cutting budgets by ....I don't know, whatever pile of horse droppings will delight the super-brainiacs at 'the media'

    I do appreciate your effort to communicate the effects of 'the sequester' with our community.  Please ask Mr. McConnel the difference between 'the sequester' and 'the austerity' being demanded by 2023, we would all be delighted to understand the differences between these set of devastating cuts and the ones that he is demanding.
    Also, too, those of us with functioning brains know that if the budget gets anywhere near balanced(say within -$100Billion), there will be a new wave of 'tax cuts'. At which point(say 2028) new retirement benefit cuts will be demanded except then(in 2028) we will be starting at 30% less than where we are today, oops.  

  •  Thanks for the diary but... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rich in PA, MKinTN

    The stewards of America's treasures and Treasury are not doing their job. Make a budget!

    You want "Entitlement Reform"? Do it.
    Social Security - raise the cap a little. 'nuff.

    Medicare - California, as an example, published its premiums and benefit packages this week for the Ca ACA Insurance Exchange. From $100 tp $1255 a month the subscriber would get the same benefits that Ca's largest insurer, Kaiser Permanent, offers its Small Business clients.Companies are lining up to sell on the Exchange.  Any Medicare actuary interested in lowering the cost of Medicare would jump at those terms for such a low utilizing population and would offer a Medicare plan to all Ca clients.

    Come up with new ideas instead of nipping at the incomes of elderly Americans. And separate SS and Medicare form the general fund before the war mongers and deficit peacocks suck the life out of this country completely.

    Deficit Reduction
    First, why now?
    Second, radically reduce the Defense Dept from over 1000 facilities world wide in 130 countries. Take the people cut from defense and put them to work in infrastructure projects. Cut defense by 33%. Americans are more willing to sacrifice defense cuts than national obligations to retirement and health.

    Debt Reduction
    Tax reform.
    Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

    If you guys can't come up with a budget then draconian sequestration cuts to defense are welcome. The rest can be fixed later. We'll be fixing things for a few generations anyway.

    •  I see you wrote very well what I wrote (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kck, MKinTN

      snarkily later.  :-/

      Remember when Howard Dean said he thought the sequester was the best we would do?  I didn't and still don't want to believe it.  But he may have been right. :-(

      How is taking a hundred dollars worth of food from hungry kids or from old poor sick people equal to taking a hundred dollars from billionaires? -- howabout, 19 Dec 2012

      by billlaurelMD on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 02:02:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Of course he was right because he's a realist. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The Dems and/or the WH could put out a budget that the people can get behind but instead they play the stalemate game with stupid vagaries like "balanced approach" and "entitlement reform"  and useless gimmicks like chained CPI and nothing actionable gets done including moving public opinion. Since there's nothing to root for there's no pressure on Republicans. Even the sequester is peanuts in reality.

  •  $1.4 trillion in deficit reduction (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    billlaurelMD, Rich in PA, MKinTN

    Not a problem if you can look at the long-term record.

    Right now the problem, regardless of what Boehner and his crowd are saying, is not the spending - it is the income.

    To play with an old analogy, if you used to have a good job, and lost it and had to cut back, would it not be logical to look for  a better job with a better income like you used to have?  That's the situation we're in.  Tell the boss he doesn't need a new yacht and 2 new BMW's - he can get by with an old Volvo or even a new Prius, and should put his money into the business, and not into his offshore accounts.

    But to buy into the 'spending is the problem' meme is self defeating.  You do not cure a stumbling economy be taking the money out of it.

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 01:06:22 PM PST

  •  My senator (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rich in PA, MKinTN, gaspare

    and I'm quite disappointed. Federal revenues at lowest share of GDP since the 1950s? Income inequality increasing to its highest level since 1917 (can you say "Gilded Age" or "Robber Barons"?). Record corporate profits and no hiring? Flat wages even with steadily increasing labor productivity since 1979? Sir, why are you NOT addressing these issues? I was hoping you weren't beholden to capital, but I guess you are. :-(

    Why can't we, instead of padding the Military-Industrial Complex, redeploy the labor and capital to infrastructure and alternative energy projects, thus retaining the jobs that would otherwise be lost?

    Oh, I forgot,  It's cuz Republicans.  Smacking my damn head.  (SMDH)

    How is taking a hundred dollars worth of food from hungry kids or from old poor sick people equal to taking a hundred dollars from billionaires? -- howabout, 19 Dec 2012

    by billlaurelMD on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 01:30:14 PM PST

  •  Oh ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for the DKos folks (and I suspect most if not all know this already...), elected officials don't hang around after they post something, typically, because they're afraid if they say something "controversial", it'll get back to the media.

    How is taking a hundred dollars worth of food from hungry kids or from old poor sick people equal to taking a hundred dollars from billionaires? -- howabout, 19 Dec 2012

    by billlaurelMD on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 01:31:38 PM PST

  •  the problem is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rich in PA, MKinTN

    That I can't trust you or the Democratic party or the President to secure a better deal than this.

    For me, a better deal consists of more cuts to the military budget, the end of farm subsidies and more revenue raised from corporations, the wealthy, and extractive industries.

    I don't believe that any deal you enter into to replace sequestration will cut the DoD budget as much as this does. I don't like the social insurance or domestic discretionary spending cuts entailed in sequestration even one little bit, but I've been following politics for a long time and I know that politicians having the spine to cut the Pentagon's budget are few and far between.

    "You try to vote or participate in the government/ and the muh'fuckin' Democrats is actin' like Republicans" ~ Kweli -8.00, -6.56

    by joey c on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 02:30:59 PM PST

  •  Thanks Senator but the Rs are evil nt (0+ / 0-)

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