The countdown to another fiscal Armageddon between Congress and the president has begun. In a week from tomorrow, sequestration will kick in and about $85 billion in federal spending cuts will occur unless Democrats and Republicans can avert the crisis.
The cuts will be painful, impacting everything from defense to early childhood education. Rep. Louise Slaughter told reporters yesterday that the first place impacted locally will be the Monroe County Airport due to cuts in the Federal Aviation Administration. Additionally, federal and civilian defense workers -— as many as 700,000 —- could be furloughed or laid off.
Everyone agrees that the United States needs to deal with the national debt, now upwards of $16 trillion. But the showdown over the sequestration is about politics, not principles. The sequestration was supposed to be so terrible when lawmakers agreed to it in 2011 that reasonable minds would prevail.
That hasn’t happened. And both Democrats and Republicans are scurrying to assign the blame before the public’s anger boils over.
President Obama has asked for a balanced approach that makes strategic sense, eliminates waste, closes tax loopholes, and reduces defense spending as the war in Afghanistan winds down.
Republicans vow not to raise revenue through tax increases even if the money comes through closing loopholes. And for now, they seem willing to throw the country into another recession.
But the sequestration raises a lot of questions about the GOP, which increasingly behaves like two parties. Who does this president negotiate with on the Hill when the radical right seems to be leading the House, and not Speaker John Boehner?
And if you have a House with newly elected representatives that campaigned on anti-government rhetoric, how do they turn around and propose solutions once they’re in office that doesn’t wreak havoc on the government?