9 Great Things About the Looming Sequester
The news has been filled with nothing but gloom and doom about the March 1 sequestration cuts. Many government agencies will be forced to (gasp!) cut anywhere from three percent to five percent of their spending. But most business people are familiar with these things called "budgets." And many I know are cheered by the upcoming sequestration. Why? Here are nine good reasons.
1. Business travel will be much better.
You've been warned that budget cuts will affect airport controllers and cause havoc in security lines. Can the FAA and TSA cut their multi-billion dollar budgets by five percent without throwing the air travel system into chaos? Probably, but shhhh--don't tell anyone! I want those annoying teenagers and screaming kids and overweight gamblers from Wichita heading to Vegas to just stay home! I'm sick of fighting for overhead luggage space. I can't take any more babies crying. I hate it when that guy sitting in front of me leans his seat all the way into my lap. I'm gagging from the smell of that burrito that some idiot in the next row brought on the plane with her. Keep scaring everyone with stories of long lines at security and airplanes falling out of the sky if sequestration takes effect. That'll keep casual travelers away. And the more they stay away, the more peaceful and efficient airports will be for the business traveler.
2. I can finally get a seat at the Outback Steakhouse in Bethesda.
Ever been to Outback Steakhouse? It's probably easier to overthrow the Syrian government than get a table there on a Friday night. Ever since the government has been the No. 1 growth industry, the Outback, T.G.I. Friday's, Applebee's and every other awesome restaurant in the greater DC area has been a total mob scene. I don't live near DC, but I've been to enough soccer tournaments in the region to know what it's like to wait in line for two hours just to eat a dilapidated Bloomin Onion. So thank God for the sequester. Now, with less money in their pockets and the prospect of actually finding work in the private sector, all those furloughed government employees who've been mobbing every decent place from P.F. Chang's to the Olive Garden will be forced to stay home and rip open a frozen pizza instead. That means more tables will open up for me and other visiting soccer parents. Hooray for sequestration!
3. Most small businesses will not be affected.
Contrary to the Armageddon predicted, most business people I know aren't fazed by a five percent budget cut. In fact, most small businesses will not really notice it. That's because there are between 20 million and 30 million small businesses in this country. These are pizza shops, gas stations, accounting firms, strip bar owners, and plumbers. Some, of course, will be impacted, particularly those that sell directly to the U.S. government, rely on federal grants, or have military contracts. And there will be others (like me) who will feel the bite indirectly because customers are in affected industries, like defense and education. And some will see revenue fall because they're located in regions where cuts will make a difference. But the good news is that the government next year must cut $85 billion from its $4 trillion in spending. You know the math. You cut stuff from your budget all the time. Life goes on.
4. Something is being done about the deficit.
Hundreds of thousands may lose their jobs. Government services may get squeezed. Flights may be late. Some businesses will suffer. Locusts, hail, and frogs may fall from the sky. This will all be painful. But not as painful as allowing the deficit to continue and the national debt to grow to more than 900 percent of U.S. GDP. Not as painful as passing down significant debts to the next generation and hampering the government from funding expansion, infrastructure, and defense because the country is unable to borrow any more to pay the bills. These automatic cuts are at least doing something about that problem And in an era where no one in Washington can get anything done, most of the business owners I know are happy that at least something is getting done. Even if it's just a five percent cut.
5. The IRS will have fewer workers.
The news that sequestration will have an impact on the number of workers at the Internal Revenue Service has brought tears to countless small business owners across the country. Tears of joy. Now you can cheat to your hearts' delight! You can charge through that anniversary dinner with the missus knowing that the odds of your being audited are even less than they were before. Ka-ching! I'm kidding, of course. But what will happen with fewer IRS customer service agents available to help you with tax questions? You never really trusted those guys anyway. And what business owner is actually asking the IRS for help? If you want to research a tax issue you probably tend to use that thing known as "the internet." Or call up those people known as "accountants." Can the IRS ever recover from a five percent cut in its workforce? Hope not!
6. There will be fewer grants for research.
There have been warnings that government agencies like the National Science Foundation (umm...who?) will be forced to cut grants for scientific research. That's a sad and terrible thing for the pharmaceutical companies and universities that are usually the largest recipients. Without that taxpayer money, they may be forced to dig into their giant stockpiles of cash or endowment funds to pay for something on their own. For a small business owner like me, I can only take great joy in watching university professor friends in my neighborhood who relied on those grants to fund their BMWs, vacations (sorry, I mean "sabbaticals"), and reimbursed college tuitions for their kids to feel what it's like to compete and be more like, er, business owners. That'll be fun.
7. Medicare and Social Security are exempt.
Ths is wonderful news. I mean, it's not like those entitlement programs or any of the other government insurance programs that account for 40 percent of Federal spending need to be cut, right? Phew!
8. There will be fewer food and safety inspectors.
Will a five percent cut cause more food-related sickness and injuries on the shop floor? I'm sure most business owners are only hoping so. Doesn't the government realize that businesses absolutely love it when their products are found to kill people? Who needs profits when you can get all that publicity instead? And don't the people at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration realize that most businesses owners secretly desire to create the most unsafe workplaces possible for their employees because it's fun to watch valuable people get hurt on the job? How can you possibly be trusted to create quality products and safe work environments without tens of thousands of food and safety inspectors? And you're only going to cut five percent of them? I welcome you to cut more! That way my comrades and I can get back to making poisonous products and designing unsafe workplaces without the government's meddling.
9. I can focus on important things again.
As March 1 comes and goes, and news of the sequestration gets old, I can finally focus my attention on more interesting and important stuff. Like March Madness, Michelle Obama's new hairstyle, the Blade Runner, and whether or not Lindsay Lohan will need another round of rehab. All this sequestration talk has really taken my eye off the ball. It'll be good to get back to business.
GENE MARKS | Columnist | Owner, Marks Group
Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small-business owner. He oversees the Marks Group, a 10-person technology consultancy to small and medium-size businesses. A certified public accountant, Marks has also worked in the entrepreneurial services arm of KPMG. He writes for The New York Times, Forbes, and The Huffington Post.