SPRINGVILLE — Time is a’ticking and March 1 looms like a dark cloud, over politicians’ heads. That is when a postponed $1.2 trillion sequester will go into effect, if lawmakers cannot find a different solution before then.
While many people are familiar with the verb sequester, which means to isolate or hide something away, the noun, which refers to a general cut in government spending, can be much more sinister.
In 2011, the United States Congress and President Barack Obama agreed that these cuts – which, although very drastic, are slated to hugely reduce our country’s debt, something we desperately need – would take effect on Jan. 1 of this year, unless a “supercommittee” could come up with a reduction plan that everyone was happy with. Not surprisingly, our politicians have not been able to agree to a mutual solution.
Then, the cuts were stalled for two months. I’m not sure whether Congress was just trying to stave off the inevitable, or if its members seriously thought that, within 60 days, they could come up with a plan that they hadn’t been able to hash out in two years.
Democrats and Republicans are both casting blame on the other party. Meanwhile, come March 1, the country’s budget will be put on a 10-year, $1.2 trillion reduction timeline. With that plan, $600 billion would be slashed from U.S. defense spending, with another $600 billion in non-defense spending.
As politicians squabble, United States Department of Defense leaders are scrambling to piece together information about just how much of a cutback they are facing.
Last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that these cuts would put the United States military on a path to becoming “a second-rate military power.” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said that if the U.S. Armed Forces are made “so degraded and so unready, and then we’re asked to use [them], it would be immoral to use the force, unless it’s well-trained, well-led and well-equipped.”
Dempsey is staring into the face of an economic catastrophe, as, elsewhere in the country, big businesses are bailed out, U.S. citizens’ jobs are shipped overseas and millionaires are given huge bonuses.
It was recently announced that major league baseball athlete Felix Hernandez will be the highest-paid pitcher in that league, earning $175 million during seven years with the Seattle Mariners. Forbes named golf pro Tiger Woods the first athlete to reach $1 billion in earnings.
People who dress up in polo shirts and checkered pants are given millions of dollars, to spend a few hours chilling on a green. Meanwhile, members of our Armed Forces, who choose to put themselves in harm’s way for their country, are being given the short end of the stick. Where have our country’s priorities gone?
Obama may have no control over how much the country’s athletes earn – although I choose to believe the pay discrepancies disgust him as much as they do me – but he recently placed lawmakers’ pay in escrow, beginning April 16, until the budget is passed.
The “No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013,” which, of course, merely postpones politicians’ paychecks, still may help hasten the end of this financial standoff. But funding to many important entities in our country will still be cut and what heads to the chopping block is up to men and women who are often greedy for favors and reelections, instead of the good of our country.
According to the White House, with the non-military cuts, thousands of children will lose Head Start and Early Start services. Cuts will be made to Title 1 education and special education funding. Small businesses would lose millions in loan guarantees from the Small Business Administration. Emergency unemployment benefits would be cut and reductions would be made to the Mental Health Block Grant Problem.
Other agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are also on the short list for funding decreases.
Cutting military support, while North Korea is conducting a nuclear test, does not seem to be in our country’s best interest, yet Congress is still failing to come up with a solution.
A lot of fingers are being pointed and too many people are expecting someone else to take the cuts and make the compromises. Meanwhile, the United States economy is in the gutter and its purveyor of freedom is on the chopping block.
Someone has to make the tough choices and everyone needs to agree to concessions, before our economy spirals even further out of control.