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The sequester, jobs, politics, and national security

The White House, through economist turned flack Alan Krueger, wasted no time in blaming yesterday’s lousy jobs report on the sequester. It’s a ridiculous claim. As we observed, government employment held steady, and the sequester is too recent to have affected the private sector.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s, who is frequently cited by the Obama administration, agrees that the sequester is not yet in play. Zandi told CNBC: “I don’t think the sequester is in here at all; it’s way too premature for the sequester.”

Zandi did identify a different culprit, though. As Eliana Johnson points out, the Moody’s economist said that Obamacare might be having an impact on the jobs picture.

Although the sequester isn’t having an impact yet, it almost certainly will. Anticipating this impact, congressional Republicans should move to decrease the extent of the sequester as it applies to defense spending. This way, they will be on record as opposing cuts that likely will cause many contractors to reduce their payrolls.

Trying to restore defense appropriations isn’t just good politics; it’s also sound policy. The sequester will hurt our preparedness, as President Obama’s former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta admitted.

Unfortunately, neither political party seems to care much about our preparedness just now. The military, it seems, is seen primarily as a vehicle for social experimentation and/or budget cuts.

But in these “come home, America” times, military spending is also seen as a vehicle for employment. Ensuring the nation’s security may no longer be viewed as sufficient reason not to slash defense spending. But preventing layoffs can perhaps function in its place.

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