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