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Sun May 26, 2013, 09:10 AM

Suicide by Sequester: US Feels Pinch of Erratic Spending Cuts



Like Medieval Leeching

The absurdity of the cuts angers the people they affect. The US can undoubtedly see how Southern Europe is driving itself into the ground with its belt-tightening measures and how unemployment there is skyrocketing. But, here, the country is pulling its own plug. "Austerity, including sequestration, is the economic version of medieval leeching," wrote Jared Bernstein, former chief economic adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden, in the New York Times in early May. People in the Middle Ages believed a sick person needed to lose supposedly bad blood in order to regain health.

That, of course, was nonsense.

In fact, more than a few American economists advise investing rather than making cuts. Such investing could come in the form of the kinds of massive infrastructure projects that have traditionally been used to create jobs in times of economic slowdown. And, as can be seen by Thursday's collapse of a bridge on a highly trafficked interstate highway in Washington State, there's plenty of evidence that the US could use upgraded infrastructure. Looking at bridges alone, in its 2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers rated one out of nine of the country's over 600,000 bridges as "structurally deficient."

What's more, the federal deficit is already decreasing faster than expected. The independent statisticians at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expect new debt of $642 billion in 2013, around $200 billion less than had been predicted at the start of the year. And the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warns that the US shouldn't overdo it with budget cuts, with the country's unemployment rate still high, at 7.5 percent.

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