A Fiscal Fairy Tale

As White House and congressional leaders slog their way toward a budget agreement, Bush wields the sequester threat

Once upon a time, the nation's leaders tried to exorcise the deficit devil with a frightful fairy tale: if they couldn't find the wisdom and courage to reduce spending and raise revenue themselves, a crude wrecking ball would knock many billions from government programs. The threat of an indiscriminate "sequester" of funds, the story went, would be so politically devastating as to scare the government into facing its fiscal responsibilities. That fantasy, in the form of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act five years ago, projected a balanced budget by fiscal 1991, which begins Oct. 1. But the brutal fact is this: the nation...

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