This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.
The sequester – automated, indiscriminate cuts across much of the federal government – was designed to be inconceivably stupid. So stupid that Republicans and Democrats would compromise on a deficit-cutting plan rather than let it take effect this Friday.
But they didn’t, and here it comes. A heresy now occurs to us: Among the sequester’s intended bad consequences, it may have an unintended good consequence: In the initial months, it could deliver a dose of shock therapy to the federal budget.
Congress needs some kind of shock. Compare the way it spends money with the way most states spend money.
When money gets tight in Olympia, for example, Washington governors force state agencies to practice triage.
Department heads are ordered to scrutinize their agencies’ activities and rank them in order of importance. What is necessary? What is nice but unnecessary?
What is just a perpetuation of old spending habits?
What would they keep if they had to give up, say, 5 percent of their money?
Nothing so systematic ever happens on the federal level, where trillions of dollars are spent every year without any overriding set of priorities.
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