With the sequester looming on the horizon, the Center for American Progress hosted a discussion with Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times D.C. Bureau Chief David Leonhardt about automatic spending cuts poised to go into effect next week to reduce the national deficit, that is unless Congress acts first.The conversation focused on Leonhardt’s new e-book, "Here’s the Deal."
“Historically the most successful way to cut the deficit is not through either tax increases or spending cuts, but it’s through economic growth,” Leonhardt said, explaining the thesis of the book.
Leonhardt cited three main causes for concern in the long-term economy:
1. The deficit
2. Low growth and unemployment
3. Climate change
“The kinds of things that promote growth in the broadest terms are investments,” he said, emphasizing a key "smart strategy" to reduce the deficit.
Leonhardt said two key areas we need to invest in are education and clean energy
Neera Tanden, CEO and President of the Center of American Progress (our parent organization) moderated the discussion. She said that while this idea of economic growth seems to make common sense, it is a point generally absent from the national debate. Instead, she noted, the conversation is structured around the deficit.
Leonhardt said that this may be true because it “feels right” to people to focus on debt, especially with the popular analogy that compares the federal government budget to a household budget.
But despite what "feels right" to many people, Leonhardt expressed concerned about the sequester's potential effect on economic growth.
“Basically what we are doing is focusing our cuts on people under the age of 65 and sparing people over 65. And if you think about what economic growth is, it’s about the future. And so it’s not shocking that if you focus cuts on the young, you’re doing more damage," he said.
Despite the nearing cuts and a seeming increased partisan divide in Congress, Leonhardt said:
“After periods when the economy has been really weak, it’s tempting to conclude that it’s going to be weak forever…I am still hopeful that there are a number of scenarios in which growth picks up, whether it’s because in fact that educational attainment has risen a little bit in the last few years after stagnating, [or] health costs finally seem to be slowing.”
If Congress fails to reach a compromise the sequester will go into affect on March 1, and many cuts are focused on young people. Some of these include:
- Head Start — 70,000 children will be kicked off of the federal program that provides education, health, nutrition and parental services to low-income children and their families.
- Financial aid grants and federal work study programs — $4,021 million would be cut from the Department of Education's Budget in the sequester, according to the Office of Management and Budget.
- Title I Education Funds — 10,000 teachers and aides jobs will be at risk.
- Small business assistance — Small Business Administration loan guarantees would be cut by up to $902 million, constricting funds needed by small businesses to maintain and create jobs.
- AIDS Drug Assistance Program — 7,400 fewer patients would have access to HIV medications and the number of HIV tests the Centers of Disease Control state grantees are able to give would be reduced to by about 424,000.