The sequester happened. Nothing happened—though we all understand there will be impacts down the road. But, it didn’t have to happen.
“Sequester,” a word foreign to most of us, “is a term used to describe the practice of using mandatory spending cuts in the federal budget if the cost of running the government exceeds either an arbitrary amount or the gross revenue it brings during the fiscal year.” In short, it is what happens when the cost of running the government exceeds the revenue.
Washington only talks about two choices when the cost of running the government exceeds the revenues: raising taxes and cutting spending. Taxes were raised as a part of the fiscal cliff deal. Sequester fills out the other half of the equation by cutting spending.
But there is an overlooked option: creating new wealth—which is different from printing new money.
Creating new wealth involves producing something of value which didn’t exist before, but that someone will pay for, bringing new money into the system. Our personal budget generally works this way: we have a job that we get paid for. We use that money to pay bills and buy stuff. That same money cycles through the system and ultimately comes back to us in the form of a paycheck. And the cycle continues. But if, one day, you were digging in your backyard and you found a pot of gold—that puts new wealth into your personal system. You can sell the gold, creating new wealth for yourself.
As a country, our bills and the stuff we buy—the cost of running the government— has exceeded the revenue for some time. The same is true for many states, counties, and cities—often resulting in bankruptcy. Not every city, county, or state has a pot of gold, but in the form of natural resources—many do. Some choose to dig up the pot of gold, creating wealth resulting in a healthy community and government. Some choose not to and instead are back to the same two choices: raising taxes and cutting spending.
On January 10, I was at a county commission hearing in New Mexico’s San Miguel County. This poor, rural county in northeastern New Mexico has geology that leads the experts to believe that there might be oil or natural gas under their feet. Several surrounding counties do have known resources and people who own the land and production companies are eager to explore to see if there is, in fact, a “pot of gold.” As is to be expected these days, there is plenty of opposition, scaring folks with talk of supposed water contamination and other calamities.
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