Tag Archives: Congress

In Case You Missed It… Understanding Sequestration

-Casey Klekas

In case you missed it, sequestration is tomorrow. Funny word. What does it mean?

“The sequester,” as it’s being called, is a series of broad, automatic cuts to federal government spending. $85.3 billion will be cut from the 2013 budget, but it doesn’t stop there. Spending cuts will increase every year, for ten years, totaling a $1.2 trillion reduction in spending by 2022.

This is the newest in a series of our “manufactured crises.” Actually, it’s a leftover from a previous crises. Remember the debt-ceiling? Last year, part of the bargain in the debt deals was that in order to get Republicans to raise the debt limit, the other side of the aisle would pledge to get serious about cutting government spending. These cuts were supposed to take place once we hit the dreaded “fiscal cliff,” but congress agreed to move the deadline for the cuts three months down the road. The debt-ceiling gave way to the Budget Control Act which designated a super committee to produce a bipartisan “grand bargain” that would get our financial house in order. As an extra incentive, if they failed to come up with something, a sequester would cut programs that are dear to both Democrats and Republicans. In other words, the cuts are split evenly between defense and non-defense spending. This year, the military budget will be cut by 7.3 percent and domestic discretionary programs cut by 5 percent.

Most experts agree that this will have a significant drag on our economic recovery. That was kind of the point of agreeing to sequestration, that it would be a consequence so ugly that congress would be forced to do something about its spending problem. However, “the sequester” hasn’t inspired anything more than a blame game. This will just impair government function and won’t help to put us on a path to a sustainable budget.

Spending cuts will take effect on March 1–that’s tomorrow. But the really scary deadline is March 27 when we will face a government shutdown. Any thing deemed “non-essential” would be closed.Those directly effected by “the sequester” will be people who plan on receiving money from the federal government. It won’t touch Social Security, Medicaid, military pay, or any costs of the war in Afghanistan. But don’t plan a trip to a National Park, because it will be closed. Don’t try to file a visa or apply for a passport. Hopefully a pandemic won’t break out because the Centers for Disease Control will be on leave, as well.

I’m pretty sick of this “kicking the can down the road” business. You cannot operate a business with this kind of attitude, nor can you run a government. The greatest enemies of the economy should not be our elected officials. This bunch of old people, most of whom are wiser and cleverer than I, has grown stale. I’m convinced that every member in congress is genuinely acting in what they believe to be the best interests of the country they love. But their actions, or inactions, are convincing my generation that we have to settle for a narrow-minded, crisis averting, unimaginative system of self-government. I’m sick of it. We’re better than this.

Illustration by Lily Nelson

What's New?

photo by Gregorio Borgia AP

-Tiana Bouma

With the internet bringing together stories from across the world, it is easy to get lost in the constant streaming updates that most news organizations provide on their websites. With so many different phone applications, email updates, and websites’ bookmarked,  my phone is always vibrating to let me know of a new story. So to help myself keep up on current news and to inform others, I’ll be writing a weekly series on the top stories that have been trending over the past week.

1.Italian Cruise Ship

On Friday the 13th, an Italian cruise ship captained by Francesco Schettino hit a reef off the coast of Italy and ran aground. The 114,500-tonne Costa Concordia was on a trip around the Mediterranean when it “hit an obstacle”. Rumors have spread about Captain Schettino, who is being accused of steering the cruise ship too close to shore while performing a maneuver known as a “salute”. As events continue to unfold, I hope that Captain Schettino is not blamed unjustly as a scapegoat. Although one question does come to mind, whatever happened to the idea of the “captain goes down with the ship”?

 2. Giffords Leaving Congress

One year after a gunman attempted to take her life, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords announced that she would forgo re-election plans in order to focus on her ongoing recovery.  Six people were killed in the shooting and 13 were wounded. Much like other national issues, the shooting brought the members of Congress together in a symbolic show of bipartisanship, but did not bring any lasting changes.  I remember the sadness I felt at the original time of the shooting, but Giffords’ strength in recovering after the attack has given the American people something to hold on to. Although she will be missed in Congress, it is important that Giffords can completely recover and I do believe we will see her in public service in the future.

3. Year of the Dragon

The Chinese New Year means that millions of Chinese families travel back to their homes to celebrate the New Year.  The spring festival is the most celebrated holiday in China and the celebrations kicked off on January 23, 2012 as the year of the dragon started.  My best memory from the Chinese New Year celebrations was the red envelopes that teachers passed out to us in elementary school. I can still taste the white rabbit candy with rice paper wrappers. I got a little laugh from a news article I stumbled across this morning; “New Year celebrations in Beijing caused 194 fires, mostly due to fireworks.” Hopefully there weren’t too many people celebrating the New Year by nursing firework burns.

4. Joe Paterno Dies at Age 85

Joe Paterno, who was college football’s winningest head coach and a Penn State icon, died on Sunday January 21st of health complications at the age of 85.  Paterno’s death comes after a stressful ordeal with Penn State. He was fired mid-season, in November, due to sexual abuse charges against former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Paterno coached for 62 years at Penn State, where he rose from assistant to head coach in 1966. He led the team to 409 wins, three Big Ten Conference titles and two national championships during his 46 seasons as program leader. Even with a lack of information and interest in football besides UO, I can see the legend that Paterno was.  I do believe that some college football fans shed some tears for the passing of a man they held dear to their hearts. All I can say is, what a way to go after such an amazing career.

How Pizza Became a Vegetable

-Neethu Ramchandar

Put away your baby carrots and V8 Juice friends because now, according to Congress, pizza is a vegetable.

This decision came to be through a recent school lunch’s bill. Initially, the bill proposed changes that would help to reduce childhood obesity. The New York Times explains that the proposed bill in January asked to add more vegetables and fruits to school lunches. In addition it would have cut down the use of potatoes, sodium, and would have only allowed schools to count pizza as a daily serving of vegetables only if one slice contained more than a quarter cup of  tomatoes sauce. The bill would have increased spending  by $6.8 billion to the existing $11 billion program.

However on Monday, Congress fell for the lobbying of special interest groups and decided to not support the bill.

Now, school lunches do not need to increase their mandatory amounts of vegetables and fruits, and pizza can be classified as a vegetable. Food companies including ConAgra, Coca-Cola, and Del Monte Foods celebrated this victory as they had continually argued that such proposed laws would only be raising costs for food that students would simply throw away. It wasn’t important to them that this bill could reduce childhood obesity because it would be bad for business.

In their statement, the Agricultural Department responded to the bill’s outcome by expressing their disappointment.

“While it is unfortunate that some in Congress chose to bow to special interests, U.S.D.A. remains committed to practical, science-based standards for school meals that improve the health of our children,” said the department in their statement.

The Daily Mail Online explains that this move was purely a cost cutting method to enable the US government to spend less on fresh food ( including vegetables) for school lunches.

“The final version of a spending bill released late Monday [will] unravel school lunch standards the Agriculture Department proposed earlier this year which limits the use of potatoes and delays limits on sodium and a requirement to boost whole grains. The bill also would allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable” reports the Daily Mail.

This bill will negate the work that the Obama administration has done to promote healthy eating. Even First Lady Michelle Obama has made healthy eating an issue of concern. However, this simple “money saving” technique undermines her work to stop childhood obesity.

Photo taken from dailymail.co.uk