The Sequester

Or, the word Rachel Maddow won’t say.  It’s going to happen, I think.  Neither side seems interested in even talking about not doing it.  We’re going to be stuck with it, and with the consequences of it.  And not only is it stupid, both sides seem to agree on how stupid it is. If you want to understand where American politics is, right now, look no further than the sequester.

The Washington Post had rather a nice article explaining what it’s all about.  Basically, it goes back to 2011, when the House threatened to not raise the debt ceiling.  As part of the compromise reached to get us out of that mess, the Budget Control Act provided for a super-committee to come up with some budget compromises that would reduce the deficit and debt.  To further incentivize that committee, the BCA also came up with the sequester; a series of budget cuts so draconian and so damaging and idiotic, that nobody could possibly wish for them to happen.  Republicans hate cuts to Defense, so half the sequester cuts are in Defense spending–Democrats hate cuts in domestic spending, so half the cuts are in discretionary domestic spending.  Read the Post article–it’s got lots of specifics about what’s going to be cut and where.  Military families will lose benefits.  It could cost about 2 million jobs–or maybe fewer than that.

Economists all basically agree that this will hurt the US economy, and could send us back into recession.  The CBO thinks it will reduce GDP by 1.5%.  It will also have almost no effect on the deficit.  It will contract the economy enough to counter-act any budget savings.

Most economists think it’s going to be devastating.  Stephen Fuller thinks it’s going to be more devastating than other economists do.  Paul Krugman thinks that any Grand Bargain, based on Simpson-Bowles, which might head off the sequester, would probably do about as much damage as the sequester itself; PK has been pretty grumpy about it all, which is why his blog lately has mostly focused on Europe and the damaging effects of austerity.

So once again, every three months, regular as Exlax, Washington is in emergency mode.  It’s a CRISIS.  But it’s worth pointing out that this sequester crisis is entirely self-inflicted, completely artificial.  Most of the time, emergencies are things that happen unexpectedly to us.  My kid’s sick: that’s an emergency.  I was in a car accident: emergency.  A comet’s about to collide with Earth: international crisis.

This isn’t.  This is something Congress and the White House did to themselves.  It was an effort to force people who have no interest in compromising to compromise.  It was intended to incentivize behavior folks are otherwise disinclined to engage in.

It’s as though I were to say “I’m too fat.  So I’m going to give away ten dollars everytime I eat dessert.” Now, it’s six months later, and I’m broke.  So I say, “I have to rob a bank.  I’m broke.”  Thing is, I don’t actually have to rob that bank.  I could stop eating dessert.  But I’m not going to do that. I like dessert. Or, the other thing I could do would be to stop giving my money away.  I mean, it was just a deal I made with myself.  I could just decide to not do it anymore.

But the sequester is likely to happen.  Neither party seems willing to even consider negotiating the settlement that would head off this deadline.  And both parties seem to think that this sequester nonsense will be so unpopular with folks that they can gain political advantage by blaming it on the other side.  Democrats can say ‘hey, this is something forced upon our nation by Republican intransigence.  They would never accept a balanced approach.’  (That’s code for tax increases.)  Republicans can say ‘this was the President’s idea.  Forced upon us by the pig-headed stubbornness of Obama.  He would never admit that the real problem is his spending spree.’  (That’s code for cutting domestic spending).  And think of the nifty ads both sides will be able to run in 2014, for the midterm elections!  Oh, joy!  Imagine how fun television is going to be to watch two years from now!

I actually have a solution for the sequester, though.  Here’s my idea.  Drum roll please!

Don’t do it.

Congress created this problem, and they can just as easily make it go away.  Just pass a bill rescinding the Budget Control Act.  Straight up and down vote.

And here’s what’s infuriating–that vote will never happen.

It’s the simple, easy and obvious solution to an entirely artificial and unnecessary and idiotic crisis.  Just let Congress vote to rescind.  The sequester is damaging.  It will hurt our economy. No one wants it, and no one ever did.  There is zero political support for the sequester.  No one is lobbying for it.  No one, on either side, likes anything about it.

So make it go away.  Vote now, today, tomorrow, immediately.

But Harry Reid will not call for such a vote in the Senate, and John Boehner will not call for such a vote in the House.  And there’s no enthusiasm among the rank-and-file membership of either body for such a vote.  Both sides think that the voters will punish anyone who votes against cuts in federal spending, because both sides have convinced the voters that the deficit and debt are the biggest problems our country faces right now.  That’s actually not true, but both sides have jumped on the ‘cut spending’ bandwagon.  And both sides think they’ll look stupid if they vote against a cut in spending, even a dumb one.  Which this one is.

The sequester is bi-partisan lunacy on the grandest of scales.  It’s completely stupid, completely avoidable, and completely inevitable.  No wonder Congress’ approval ratings are lower than Paris Hilton’s.



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