By Bill Crawford
Did you feel it Friday? The earth-rattling, program-shattering beginning of the “sequester?”
OK, OK. In coming weeks some may feel some hurt until Congress and the President agree to kick the can again.
But the yanh-yanh about the sequester is like arguing about a broken bough when the whole tree is rotten. It’s a smidgen relative to the overall debt crisis facing this country.
Over 10 years, the sequester will cut an average of only $120 billion per year. Government spending this year will total $3.5 trillion.
With the sequester factored in, annual spending is still projected to reach $5.4 trillion by 2021 and add about $6 trillion to the national debt. In December, the debt total was already an unimaginable $16.4 trillion.
Meanwhile, our economy continues to struggle. GDP for the first quarter was an anemic 0.1 percent. Unemployment remains high at 7.9 percent. The reality is our fragile economy can’t withstand the major cuts or tax increases needed to resolve our debt crisis.
Indeed, government inaction and miscues over the past decade have left us between the proverbial rock and hard place.
The only reasonable way out of this dilemma is to slowly squeeze our way out. Rather than quick cuts that would hurt the economy, we need to slow spending increases over time. Rather than immediate tax increases that would hurt the economy, we need to revise tax policy over time to encourage growth.
To do this both parties, both houses of Congress and the president would have to work cooperatively. But, it has become shamefully apparent that none of the people currently holding Washington leadership positions has the leadership ability to get this done. Not the president. Not Republican or Democrat leadership in Congress.
Politics rules the day, not backboned, forthright, patriotic leadership.
Right now they’re frothing over a way to kick the can down the road again by “updating” the base to which sequester cuts apply. By March 27, Congress must pass a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through Sept. 30. If Congress ups the appropriations base in the CR, the sequester cuts will use up the fake additional appropriations before becoming real cuts.
So, where will the leadership we desperately need come from, if it comes at all?
The best hope appears to lie with senators like Thad Cochran who are willing to reach across the aisle, talk to each other and come up with solutions. The downside is they face such stiff hurdles – the 60 vote cloture threshold in the Democrat-controlled Senate, the majority of the majority threshold in the Republican-controlled House, and special-interest controlled colleagues who tear into anyone who seeks compromise.
As you watch this sequester bough break, pray the cradle of modern civilization doesn’t fall.
Bill Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.