For several months, politicians on both sides of the political aisle have been sounding the alarm. We’ve been warned that the sequestered spending cuts are across-the-board and, therefore, without analysis. We’ve also been warned that the draconian measures will slow economic growth and, as a result, cost the nation somewhere in the area of 750,000 jobs – a figure agreed to by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Where are we now that the dreaded sequester has taken effect?
Pretty much the same place we were before sequestration. But at least a group of GOP senators got one thing they’ve wanted: a face-to-face sit-down dinner with the President. Perhaps that’s progress?
Republicans have claimed that they want to avert a shutdown next month so they are are offering what they always have: more of the same. Up for the White House’s consideration is a proposal to keep the sequester’s domestic cuts in place while restoring any cuts to the military budget to the tune of $8 billion. It’s ‘funny’ that they decided to just keep going with the domestic cuts given that House Speaker John Boehner said, “I don’t know whether it’s going to hurt the economy or not…I don’t think anyone quite understands how the sequester is really going to work.”
Really? Doesn’t Boehner know that the the sequester will cut, among other crucial items, $35 million for local fire departments; 10,000 teaching positions and 70,000 spots for preschoolers in Head Start; nutrition assistance for half a million women and their children; and $43 million for food programs for seniors?
That begs the question: If he isn’t sure of the impact then why not simply step up to stop the sequester? Why not negotiate for reasonable cuts in the areas of overlap and waste, while leaving desperately needed social supports in place until full analysis is complete? Or, in the very same way that the arbitrary cuts were imposed by the formation of a law, why not form a new law that does away with sequestration? Last Friday, Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) introduced a bill called the “Cancel the Sequester Act of 2013“— a bill that could cancel the sequester in just one sentence:
“Section 251A of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 is repealed.”
Those of us sitting on the sidelines outside of Washington and its halls of power get it. We know that congressional Republicans must answer to their constituents, as is the case with their counterparts on the left. It’s just unfortunate that the GOP has narrowed their key constituency to those who need to see social programs gutted in order to maintain tax loopholes — gaping holes large enough to accommodate corporate jets and yachts — for millionaires and billionaires. At one point, Boehner himself agreed on closing loopholes, but now that his true base has spoken, that idea is off his table.
For his part in moving beyond stagnation, President Obama has been reaching out to Republicans who have a history of reaching across the aisle. Frankly, it’s hard to believe any of those still exist in this current political environment but he must continue to reach out, as any president should, even and especially to those who oppose him every step of the way. Let’s hope that the bread he broke at the dinner table last night can also break down a few walls between the president and the GOP; regardless of the reasons, the gridlock in Washington has been affecting the rest of the nation for far too long.
Looking backwards, Ronald Reagan famously said, “There you go again” during his 1980 presidential debate with incumbent President Jimmy Carter. Applying that very comment to modern-day Washington it can speak to that deja vu, spinning our wheels feeling one can get while watching the daily machinations. I wonder if even Reagan could have imagined that either party would, once again, arrive at the point where they see the U.S. government facing another budget showdown and the threat of a government shutdown. Again…so soon. Unfortunately, the white-knuckle operation of government is happening so frequently that, for many observers, every day in Washington has become just another “there you go again” day.