I try to keep my head buried in the sand when it comes to politics, mostly because I can't stand to see the people we elected act less mature and collaborative than my kindergartener. But this week we all have no choice but to pay attention, because of a major standoff taking place between the White House and Congress, one that could cause 750,000 to 1,000,000 American workers to lose their jobs. According to Forbes, not one person responsible for this debacle is slated to be laid off. Shocker.
Apparently, the current looming disaster is a continuation of the 2011 crisis over the debt ceiling. Back then, Republicans wanted spending cuts, but the Obama Administration needed to pay back its bondholders. What was the compromise? $2 trillion in cuts, with about $1 trillion going to the debt ceiling bill and the rest imposed through sequestration.
What is sequestration, you ask? Good question.
Sequestration, as Forbes tells us in an article by John T. Harvey called Suicide by Sequestration, is the Fiscal Cliff: Party II. It’s automatic, indiscriminate, and across-the-board cuts to government agencies – in this case $1.2 trillion – that will go into effect over the next decade. But here's the catch, sequestration was only set to take place if Congress and the President couldn't come to an agreement on how to reduce the deficit. And guess what, they didn't.
A special congressional panel, called the "super committee," was supposed to create an alternative plan for cuts but – shocker again – it failed in November 2011. CNN tells us, “This left federal agencies facing what outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called 'legislative madness' in the form of harsh cuts that no one wanted.”
With no solution in sight, we’re now stuck with sequestration, which is likely to result in $85 billion in cuts over the next year alone, with reductions being split equally between defense and domestic spending. CNN tells us that this is “all part of attempts to get a handle on the growth of the U.S. national debt, which exploded upward when the 2007 recession hit and now stands at more than $16 trillion. The sequester has been coming for more than a year, with Congress pushing it back to March 1 as part of the fiscal cliff deal at the end of the last session.”
We've got just two days left for Obama and Congress to come up with an alternative plan. If they don’t, thousands of people in education, the military, law enforcement, courts, national parks, and other related fields will lose their jobs. Harvey contends, though others disagree, that the "economy will almost certainly fall back into recession, long term growth will be stunted, and confidence will be shattered."
Not surprisingly, what we're finding in D.C. this week is the usual partisan political garbage. According to The Hill, “Most if not all Democrats are expected to support their conference’s $110 billion sequester replacement bill that would phase in a new minimum tax on those making more than $1 million a year, close corporate tax loopholes, end direct farm payments and delay defense cuts.”
Republicans have yet to come together to support Obama's plan or even one generated by members of their own party. According to the Daily Beast, their concerns are related to cutting the deficit and entitlement spending, simplifying the tax code and protecting defense spending. Republicans also want to ensure that any new bill does not give the president more power, which they believe he will eventually use against them. Democrats have not expressed support for any Republican-led alternatives.
Just another typical week in D.C., with politicians bickering and playing partisan politics while almost a million jobs are on the line. Is it any wonder Congress's approval rating is a measly 14%?
If I've got this all wrong, please don't hesitate to say so below.
I updated this article, adding the name of the author of Suicide by Sequestration, John T. Harvey.