According to a proposal leaked last week by Republicans, the Obama administration is now proposing a "deferral of sequester" in fiscal cliff talks. Is this the expression of a line-in-the-sand commitment or a negotiating ploy?
The sequestration cuts to state and local programs have been described as "big [and] dumb." One could dispute how truly "big" they are, but there's no question about their being dumb. No distinctions are made based on need or effectiveness.
But instead of identifying which programs deserve to be protected because they're good programs, state and local advocates have simply decided to defend everything. The official line seems to be that unless every program is spared, all is lost. They can't be sincere. A more constructive contribution would be to recommend certain programs for closure in exchange for protecting or even expanding others.
Consider School Improvement Grants, one of several K-12 programs now exposed to sequestration. Despite billions spent trying to turn around struggling schools, recent results published by the Department of Education suggest that this program is weak. To some in K-12 reform circles, these results comes as no surprise, given that SIG is founded on the mistaken premise that failing schools can and should be turned around.
SIG is surely not the only program subject to sequester that, were it shut down completely, would not be missed. So where's the debate?