Here’s how it worked: In 2011, Congress authorized an increase in the debt ceiling in exchange for $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade. The total included $1.2 trillion in specific spending cuts, and another $1.2 trillion to be identified later in 2011 by a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers known as the “Supercommittee.” When the Supercommittee failed to make a deal, across-the-board cuts in the growth of spending occurred.
But that consequence — call it Sequester 1.0 — hasn’t proved painful enough to prompt Democrats and Republicans to lay down their arms and end these constant budget battles.
We’d like to see that same approach again: Raise the debt ceiling to avoid a default, but force a debt fix within, say, three months or face a much more dramatic haircut to each party’s sacred cows. But a Sequester 2.0 would have to really hurt: Don’t again reduce the growth of spending. This time, reduce spending.
That is, raise the ante in order to force action on reducing accumulated debt that does confront the America as we know it with an existential threat. Forcing both parties, both branches of government, to put more chips on the table would be a responsible way to get results from a president and Congress that already are gambling with America’s future.
Our problems are actually simpler than that. We need to decrease defense spending. We need to decrease healthcare spending. Simple to say, hard to do.