The $85 billion in automatic federal spending cuts due Friday and the $109 billion in cuts every year after for nine years were meant to be so ridiculous, so shameful to the members of Congress and the president, that there was no way on God’s green earth that sequestration would go forward.
But federal politicians’ capacity for shame is greater than their capacity to do the right thing, to eat a little crow, to compromise for the good of the country.
Instead, no one is giving ground, and the paltry $24 billion in cuts earlier this year to stave off the March 1 sequestration deadline did little to avoid the inevitable.
Simply put, what we are preparing for at the end of the week has been caused by a massive failure of our government, our congressional leaders and our president to find consensus on reckless spending and make the kinds of cuts that while nowhere near painless, at least would have made sense.
Sequestration came out of the debt-ceiling fight and Budget Control Act of 2011. Remember the “supercommittee”?
It was a group of bipartisan lawmakers given wide latitude and special powers to make meaningful and sensible cuts to the federal budget. With a goal of $1.5 trillion, the “supercommittee” was at least aiming for $1.2 trillion.
Instead, this “supercommittee” “superfailed” by “superstalemating.”
Going forward, when and if sequestration takes place, we will see $55 billion in cuts from the Pentagon, a move meant to embarrass any good Republican. That will immediately be followed by $43 billion in assorted government cuts from education to social services, all areas near and dear to most Democrats. The final $11 billion is to come from Medicare, hitting both parties in the mouth by way of our senior citizens.
Do you see where we are going here? Even the pet projects, the popular areas based along party lines, haven’t been enough to compel Congress into bipartisan action.
Frankly, many of the cuts that would come down with sequestration would not immediately be felt, but would unfold over weeks and months, such as furloughs for federal employees, fewer air-traffic controllers and TSA agents at airports around the country or even fewer hours at national parks.
But there will be pain until Congress comes to its senses and make the hard choices and hard cuts. There will be a change to restructure some of these cuts by the end of March, another funding authorization deadline. Then, it’s no holds barred. If you think you’ve seen partisan bickering, this should prove to be all-out partisan bloodshed.
Friday is the deadline for trigger cuts.
Federal government, lawmakers need to getit together.
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