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Sen. Hatch: Smart spending cuts needed

Published March 1, 2013 4:16 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There's been a lot of talk about what the sequester is and what it means, so let's look at some facts.

The sequester — which took effect at midnight — is a series of spending cuts that represent less than 2.5 percent of our entire $3.5 trillion annual federal budget. These cuts were included in the Budget Control Act; legislation that I opposed and that President Obama signed into law in August 2011.

It capped discretionary spending and created a new Deficit Reduction Committee — commonly referred to as the SuperCommittee — to find an additional $1.2 trillion in budget savings. If the SuperCommittee failed, which it did, then the sequester would take effect.

The sequester implements $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts this year, with another $1.1 trillion coming over the next decade. Because of how President Obama structured the sequester, nearly $500 billion of the $1.1 trillion in cuts would come from the military. This $500 billion is on top of a previously scheduled $500 billion in cuts to our armed forces.

Our country is $16.6 trillion in debt. Republicans have tried to work with Senate Democrats on common-sense spending cuts so we can begin to get our crippling debt under control, but we've been met with virtual silence. Disappointingly, the president seems more interested in continuing his campaign across the country to score political points, all while the country sits disgusted with a lack of action from Washington to fix the president's sequester.

The cuts represented in the sequester are necessary, but what is not necessary is how they are structured. To essentially cut $1 trillion from our military in a short period of time will place an unnecessary burden on our service members and the workers who aid their efforts. So why won't the president work with us to restructure these cuts in a more manageable way so the Department of Defense can plan accordingly?

The president's default excuse for inaction always seems to be to blame Congress, but there's a number of reasonable ways in which the president should be working with both Republicans and Democrats to cut spending, and this week I put forward a proposal to do just that.

My legislation (which you can read on my website, http://www.hatch.senate.gov) is a series of reasonable spending reductions totaling $142.2 billion — almost $60 billion more than the amount cut this year by the sequester, but in a much more common-sense, reasonable way.

The legislation I put forward cuts spending through smart, concrete cuts like freezing federal employees' pay, reducing civilian agencies' travel budgets and reducing government agencies' advertising budgets. It cuts spending by combining federal agencies and consolidating programs. It eliminates funding for public media, and cuts down on wasteful spending in the federal government for administrative costs.

But Senate Democrats rejected my proposal and instead put forward a bill supported by President Obama that raises taxes by $85 billion instead of cutting spending. That's right, more taxes that you would have to give over to Washington. It's that type of failed leadership that's gotten our country into this position in the first place. Raising taxes to fuel more spending isn't a step forward, it's a step back for the future of our country.

If we can't get serious and work together to cut less than nine days of spending in the federal government, then what does that say for the future of our country?

Instead of traveling around the country and trying to scare Americans, it would be helpful if President Obama came to the table ready to cut the wasteful spending that is plaguing our government. Actions speak louder than words, Mr. President.

Orrin Hatch is a U.S. senator for Utah.