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from The Great Debate:

Saving Defense dollars: From BRAC to ORAC

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While the government shutdown continues because of the Democrats’ and Republicans’ profound disagreement, the real issue facing the nation is something that both parties agree on, in principle: the need to reduce the size of the federal deficit.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 and sequestration have made some steps in this direction, though aiming indiscriminately at certain parts of government far more than others. Half of all cuts, for example, come from the Defense Department.

There are a wide range of options for domestic spending reduction. But military spending cuts are more narrow and difficult. They can be done responsibly, however. Sequestration’s reductions are severe, perhaps excessive (especially early on), with $500 billion in 10-year cuts, on top of the $500 billion already accepted back in 2011. That said, tens of billions can undoubtedly be saved through smart economies and business practices -- without cutting muscle or breaking faith with the men and women in uniform.

The administration and Congress should pursue a two-pronged effort-- revitalizing the Base Realignment and Closure (“BRAC”) process while convening a similar, but new, Overhead Realignment and Closure Commission (“ORAC”) to make the Defense Department a less wasteful organization.

from The Great Debate:

Sequestration as government malpractice

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In regard to the Food and Drug Administration, the sequestration could ultimately cost lives.

Breakthrough medicines that could save lives may not reach patients as fast as possible, in part because FDA funding has been cut by $209 million -- or more than 5 percent. That figure includes $85 million in user fees already paid by industry, but frozen by Congress.

from Stories I’d like to see:

The mysterious farm bill, sequestration’s virtues, and the death of airport newsstands

1.  Can someone please explain the farm bill fight?

I’m a news junkie. But I am completely clueless about one policy issue that is hugely important (it affects what we eat and how much we pay for it), involves hundreds of billions of dollars in government programs and subsidies, and was splashed all over the front pages last week as the latest example of congressional dysfunction.

I’m referring, of course, to America’s farm policy (that’s farm, not foreign) and what last week’s headlines called “the farm bill.”

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Obama’s best strategy: Do nothing

Ronald Reagan had a catchphrase when faced with a crisis, especially a synthetic “crisis” of the kind Washington loves to concoct. He would call in the officials and media advisers rushing manically around the West Wing and calmly tell them: “Don’t just do something - stand there.”  In this respect, as in several others, “No Drama Obama” seems to resemble the man he once admiringly described, despite their ideological animosity, as the last great “transformational” U.S. president.

With Wall Street hitting new records as Washington supposedly plunges into its latest fiscal crisis with the budget sequestration that began this week, Obama could do well to emulate Reagan’s laid-back style. In addition to doing nothing about the latest manufactured fiscal crisis, he could explain why nothing is the right thing to do.

from Breakingviews:

U.S. budget cuts more blip than bomb

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By Daniel Indiviglio
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

For all the rhetoric from both political parties, the impending U.S. budget cuts are more a blip than a bomb. An initial $100 billion-worth of federal spending reductions won’t do much real damage to the growing economy.

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