The only negotiations more screwed up than Hunter-Stern are those between the Dems and Reps on the (not so) Supercommittee on deficit reduction.
They are charged with producing $1.2 trillion in cuts and revenues over 10 years. That is $120 billion per year. Federal spending is running around $3.6 trillion PER YEAR. The deficit is over $1 trillion PER YEAR.
In other words, $1.2 trillion is peanuts.
We could take the full $1.2 trillion out of defense and never miss it. Defense spending is around $900 billion PER YEAR, so we'd be "crippling" the Pentagon by only giving it $780 billion PER YEAR.
The Canadians would probably pour over our border and conquer us at that point, eh? Well not really, because the cuts are not really cuts from today's levels but from a baseline of future increases. If sequester went into effect, the Pentagon budget would still grow over the next 10 years.
And yet we read this in today's WSJ:
With Congress's deficit-reduction supercommittee barreling toward a deadline for striking a big budget deal, both parties are reaching for accounting gimmicks to help reach their target of $1.2 trillion in savings over 10 years.
Some tools are familiar to old Washington hands, such as massaging budget assumptions and painting rosy economic scenarios. Others include taking credit for "saving" money on wars that are ending and putting off until next year what lawmakers don't want to deal with now.
All told, none of these efforts make the fundamental policy changes needed for a long-term budget fix. "Suddenly everyone is talking not about deficit reduction but deficit-reduction gimmicks," said Stanley Collender, a budget expert and former congressional aide.
Give me that old time sequester, give me that old time sequester, give me that old time sequester, it's good enough for me. It was good enough for Gramm-Rudman, it was good enough for Gramm-Rudman, it was good enough for Gramm-Rudman and it's good enough for me.