What’s interesting about this document is that it is as much a political document as it is a budget statement. The Administration has some leeway in determining which programs to cut and by how much, so the president’s choices should come under some scrutiny.
For now, the two parties remain at odds, with each seeking to blame the other for the automatic cuts about to come.
Under the terms of those cuts, most military programs face a 9.4 percent reduction, while most domestic programs would be sliced by 8.2 percent. Medicare would be trimmed by 2 percent, while other social programs — excluding Social Security — would be sliced by as much as 10 percent.
White House officials said cuts to Medicare would fall on health care providers, not beneficiaries. But the impact on health care professionals could affect the elderly if deep cuts prompt doctors and hospitals to shun Medicare patients. Total payments to hospitals through Medicare would be cut by more than $5.8 billion next year, while prescription drug benefits would be trimmed by $591 million.
The White House report details how $108 billion in cuts would be meted out next year, the start of what would be a decade’s worth of cuts on that scale.
Congressional Republicans were the first to demand a detailed accounting this summer, focusing on the planned Pentagon cuts. The White House resisted. Then Democrats joined in, pushing to see the impact on domestic programs as well and ultimately passing legislation almost unanimously demanding a written report.
A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged the White House reluctance on Friday. The reason, he said, was the fear that “lots of energy and time would go to reporting and planning as opposed to avoiding the sequester.”
As late as Friday, Congressional aides were skeptical that the White House would produce the details lawmakers had wanted. And the White House did not get to the level of precision sought by some lawmakers, down to the effect on individual weapons programs or military bases.
Some defense contractors have already put workers on notice that there will be layoffs as a result of the cuts to national defense. Other cuts targeting domestic programs may result in a loss of services or closing of offices. Given the massive deficits being run by the Obama administration, as well as the huge debt we’ve run up, cutting the budget intelligently may be beyond the capabilities of an insanely partisan congress. These draconian cuts illustrate what happens when there is a total breakdown in governance — a situation contributed to by both parties, but that has as failure of leadership by the president at its core.