My apologies to Shakespeare for the title, but there are multiple viewpoints concerning the so-called sequester* and no agreement.
The Democrats, especially President Obama, say this sequester must be stopped or we will face economic apocalypse. (I’ve heard the term Armageddon used, but that is the final battle between the forces of good and evil in the Bible book of Revelation; apocalypse is destruction or devastation, which seems more appropriate here.) The Republicans seem divided. Some agree that if the sequester happens, it will be a hit to the US economy. Others say that the $85 billion is a proverbial drop in the bucket.** Still other Republicans say that the cuts are worth suffering through if they put the US on a better financial path.
President Obama is blaming the Republicans for creating this crisis, but both sides are to blame. Bob Woodward (one of two reporters who broke the Nixon-Watergate cover-up) wrote in his book “The Price of Politics” that members of the Obama administration suggested the sequester as part of the 2010 debt ceiling deal. Republicans agreed to the deal and Mr. Obama signed the legislation. Shortly after, he said he would veto any bill that negated the automatic cuts. Only in late 2011, during the presidential election campaign, did the President begin claiming that Republicans suggested it. (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1012/82772.html)
Neither members of Congress nor the President act as worried as their rhetoric would imply. Congress was on vacation last week and Mr. Obama spent Presidents’ Day weekend in Florida. If the sequester deadline was as dangerous as many are saying, everyone should be in Washington furiously working on a solution. (The House has passed two bills with enough spending cuts to stop the sequester, but the Senate has not acted on them.)
President Obama spoke to invited audiences, and/or members of his administration addressed the press every day last week, trying to scare us into supporting the President’s plan of spending cuts and tax increases. The only cuts mentioned are to jobs, yet the sequester requires cuts evenly across all accounts in all agencies. The President continually says the jobs of teachers, day care workers and first responders are at risk. But none of those are federal workers. (He must belong to the if-you-say-it-often-enough-they-will-believe-it club.) Mr. Obama may be referring to positions funded in part by federal grants. But cities and states that might not get grant money do not have the constraints of the sequester so they could juggle money in various accounts, stagger payments, etc. to maintain a consistent cash flow to pay workers.
If you hear one of President Obama’s comments on this and then listen to a national or local news report, you will hear almost identical words and statistics. Last night on Reno station KOLO, I heard that their information came from a White House press release. So most of what Americans are hearing about the sequester is biased toward one viewpoint of the situation. I am disappointed that almost no news shows are investigating this for themselves.
The sequester is a serious situation that requires Congress to make serious financial adjustments to federal spending to avoid mandatory cutbacks. This situation should be treated seriously, not as a political game. If Congress and the President had gone into negotiations with the needs of those teachers, first responders and other Americans in mind, this problem would have been solved already.
With only five days left to take action, any legislation that might get passed will likely contain exemptions or pork for those involved in the negotiating. Other Congressmen won’t hear about it before the vote because there won’t be enough time to read the bill. This is no way to run a government.
* Sequester: money in the federal budget isolated from the rest and, in this case, it cannot be spent. Same word and similar meaning to a jury being sequestered, or isolated, from other people so they hear nothing about a court case.
** $85 billion is bout 2.6% of the total last federal budget, which was approx. $32 trillion. But entitlements (Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, welfare, veterans’ benefits) will not be touched by the sequester. They make up about half the budget, so the $85 billion in cuts will come from the approx. $16 trillion discretionary budget, or about 5.3% of that section of the total budget.