Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Thanks for the Castration...er, Sequestration, Congress!

It’s interesting that the word “sequester” has two meanings: as a noun it means “a general cut in government spending” and as a verb it means “to remove or withdraw into solitude or retirement.”

I can think of more than a few folks currently taking up space in Washington who really ought to retire and leave the policy-making to those actually willing to do something besides obstructing the president and bouncing from one avoidable, manufactured crisis to another.

I’m not saying lawmakers should regularly defer to the POTUS; I just wish they would actually communicate with the guy once in a while. I wish they would formulate plans and hammer out compromises that serve the best interest of the country, not their party, as opposed to forcing the airplane that is the federal government into tailspin after tailspin, plummeting toward the unforgiving ground while alarms blare and Faux News anchors cheer – only to pull up at the last second with a temporary “fix” that merely postpones calamity rather than eliminating it.

The latest unnecessary emergency facing us is the sequester – the series of harsh, automatic budget cuts that will kick in this Friday, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs, cutting vital government services and pushing our economy back into recession (if the prediction of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office proves true).

For those wondering how this latest crisis came about, Congress passed a law back in 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011, which said that if Democrats and Republicans couldn’t agree on how to reduce the federal deficit by $4 trillion dollars, about a trillion dollars of arbitrary and draconian budget cuts would start taking effect this year. (I’ve written about this before – see “Oh, This is Just Super!” from August 25, 2011 and “Nation’s Capital Still a Cesspool” from November 21, 2011).

The intention was to make these cuts so scary and unappealing that the two parties would feel obligated to compromise and actually work together as opposed to endlessly pointing fingers and calling names like my children used to do before they entered elementary school and learned that it’s better to play nice than to shoot spitballs and break all the rules. Of course this didn’t happen – some are saying it’s because Republicans secretly want the cuts to kick in so they can blame the Obama administration for the pain that’s sure to follow – so now we have another ticking time bomb that’s sure to keep those who design clever graphics for the nightly news busy.

Photo Courtesy Reuters
According to the White House, the POTUS has proposed “a balanced plan to not only avoid the harmful effects of the sequester but also to reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion in total.” Unfortunately, Boehner, McConnell, Cantor et al have placed their fingers firmly in their ears and launched their baseless campaign to lay responsibility for this crisis right at Obama’s size 12 Oxfords.

Essential domestic programs on which people depend are threatened, including but not limited to services for Native Americans, small business assistance, AIDS and HIV treatment and prevention, mental health and substance abuse prevention, unemployment compensation, child care, rental assistance, nutrition assistance for women, infants and children, special education, aviation security and veterans services. More than 700,000 job losses could result. And many of our national parks will close either completely or partially, which means the small businesses and regional economies that depend on the parks to attract consumers will suffer as well.

Here in Michigan, Head Start will be eliminated for approximately 2,300 children, reducing access to critical early education. My state will lose approximately $22 million in funding for primary and secondary education – putting teacher and aide jobs at risk – as well as around $20 million that helps children with disabilities.

We’ll lose more than $7 million in environmental and wildlife protection money and another $1.7 million that would have paid for job search assistance, referral and placement (meaning 54,400 fewer Michigan residents will get the help and skills they need to find jobs). We’ll lose money intended to help domestic violence victims and to provide food for seniors through Meals on Wheels.

Approximately $900 million in small business loans will be gone and up to 373,000 seriously mentally ill and emotionally disturbed people could go untreated. More than 100,000 formerly homeless people, including veterans (and is anything more despicable than the way Republicans pay lip service to our soldiers while denying them the most basic support if and when they get home?), would be removed from housing and emergency shelter programs, putting them at risk of returning to the streets. And this, sadly, is not all.

For a more detailed listing of Michigan-specific cuts, click here.

I thought maybe Republicans were just punishing my state for choosing Obama/Biden over Romney/Ryan 55% to 45% last November until I realized that no state will be immune to the effects of their misguided machinations.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the current scenario is that mealy-mouthed politicians insist they’re just trying to cut needless government expenditures, restrain future spending and bring fiscal responsibility to Washington. Republicans – who weren’t concerned about fiscal responsibility when Dubya was putting two unnecessary wars on the national credit card or they were awarding billions in tax cuts to greedy fat cats – are of course opposed to closing tax loopholes and asking the richest Americans to pay their fair share. After all, why look for revenue when the real objectives are to drown government in a bathtub and pin the blame on the guy in the Oval Office?

One political historian described the predicament as an “elaborate game of chicken” and said Obama was brilliant to “kick the can down the road” until after last November’s election. It’s the Republicans, he said, who stand to suffer more damage as we approach the 2014 midterm elections.

Republicans won’t suffer the most damage. It’s people who aren’t even playing this stupid game who are really going to lose.

Sources: WhiteHouse.gov, PoliticsUSA.com, shoesofthepresidents.com, Dictionary.com, uselectionatlas.org, International Business Times.

1 comment:

  1. I shared on FB..will do so all week...encourage fools ..folks ..slip... call . thanks for your blog.
    like it very much.
    Jan Ripple