WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama Tuesday called on Congress to avoid deep, across-the-board spending cuts looming March 1 under a “sequestration” mechanism in budget law and to take a balanced approach to America’s debt problems.
If sequestration happens, hundreds of thousands of Defense Department civilian employees could be furloughed and readiness of the military force will plummet, Pentagon officials have said.
The American economy is poised to make progress in 2013, the president said in remarks at the White House today, but sequestration could put an end to any forward movement.
“We’ve seen the effects that political dysfunction can have on our progress,” Obama said. “The drawn-out process for resolving the ‘fiscal cliff’ hurt consumer confidence. The threat of massive automatic cuts [has] already started to affect business decisions.”
While it is critical for the U.S. government to cut wasteful spending, “we can’t just cut our way to prosperity,” Obama said.
“Deep, indiscriminate cuts to things like education and training, energy and national security will cost us jobs, and it will slow down our recovery,” he added.
The president emphasized that sequestration does not have to happen.
“For all of the drama and disagreements we’ve had over the past few years, Democrats and Republicans have still been able to come together and cut the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion through a mix of spending cuts and higher rates on taxes for the wealthy,” he said.
“A balanced approach has achieved more than $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction,” the president continued. “That’s more than halfway towards the $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists and elected officials from both parties believe is required to stabilize our debt.”
Obama called on Congress to finish the job with a balanced mix of spending cuts and more tax reform. Though he favors a balanced approach that will solve the problem, the president said, he is realistic.
“I know that a full budget may not be finished before March 1,” he said. “And unfortunately, that’s the date when a series of harmful automatic cuts to job-creating investments in defense spending … are scheduled to take effect.”
If Congress cannot act immediately on a bigger package, Obama said, “then I believe that they should at least pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms that would delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months until Congress finds a way to replace these cuts with a smarter solution.”
There’s no reason “that the jobs of thousands of Americans who work in national security or education or clean energy — not to mention the growth of the entire economy — should be put in jeopardy just because folks in Washington couldn’t come together,” he added. “Our economy right now is headed in the right direction, and it will stay that way, as long as there aren’t any more self-inflicted wounds coming out of Washington.”