Tuesday, February 19, 2013

(Don't Fear) The Sequester

Teen-age love, true love, first love, the love of Romeo and Juliet. It always seems special, a moment caught in time to be preserved forever. And when outside forces threaten such a moment--be they Capulet, Montague, or the vicissitudes of life--it is only natural to oppose those forces, to seek a way around them or a way out, altogether. The moment seems to be more important than anything else, worth any risk, even that of death.

But suicide pacts are for suckers by and large, for people with limited world views because of age or mindset. Most simply push on, work through the problems, and accept that life cannot be perfect, that love is often lost. Still, the feelings are not so easily dismissed; they linger on, reminding us of what was, what could of been, or what we only imagined things to be.

In 2011, as I detailed previously previously, Congress and the President made their own pact which many believed was something of a suicidal one. Certainly the President and his advisors (Jack Lew played a prominent role here) who dreamed it up thought so; they took it as a given that the Sequester-made-law would guarantee Republican capitulation to the President's agenda:
The coming sequester is a consequence of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which passed in the House by a vote of 269-161 and in the Senate by a vote of 74-26. President Obama signed it into law on August 2nd, 2011. It was sponsored by Tom Harkin, but was itself produced by the White House and a number of Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle.  
The idea--from the point of view of the White House--was simple: we'll set up this mechanism to trigger automatic cuts to enable the ramming through of our agenda (i.e. tax increases). It will work because the Republicans will back down every time the sequester approaches, in fear of the massive cuts in defense spending that it would entail.
We're now just over a week out from the automatic implementation of the Sequester and there's little to suggest that it won't happen. And it's quite clear that the White House considers this to be suicidal for the nation at large. From its most recent statement--given ahead of the President's 10:45 press conference today--on the matter:
If these cuts go into effect, hundreds of thousands of jobs could be lost and middle class families all across the nation will feel the devastating impact; FEMA would need to eliminate funding for State and local grants that support firefighter positions and State and local emergency management personnel, hampering our ability to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies.

With less than two weeks before these cuts hit, the President will challenge Republicans to make a very simple choice: do they protect investments in education, health care and national defense or do they continue to prioritize and protect tax loopholes that benefit the very few at the expense of middle and working class Americans?
On the flip side of things, Republicans appear ready to accept the consequences of the Sequester. Why? Because of one simple reality: a national debt of more than $16 trillion dollars (which doesn't include a number of liabilities; the real debt is more like $87 trillion). For comparison, the total national debt of the rest of the world's governments is around $34 trillion.

So which approach is actually suicidal, allowing to the debt to pile up with no regard for how it will ever be paid, or actually cutting spending now (as opposed to making imaginary cuts in the future)?

When I was younger, medicine never tasted good, but one took it because it was necessary. Perhaps we've become too concerned with making medicine taste better, as opposed to actually taking that medicine when we need it. There's no longer any time for spoonfuls of sugar, either.

Don't fear the Sequester. It may sting, but it's time to get real.

Cheers, all.

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