“Sequestration” went into effect in America this week, reducing U.S. government spending by $85 billion.
What does it mean? It means that the United States has accepted “Austerity.”
It’s not the end of the world. The vast majority of U.S. government spending will continue as usual. The government will not grind to a halt, at least not because of sequestration. It’s still possible that Congress could force a shut-down of government sometime in the future, but not likely this year.
Failure of Government Decision-making
Most interestingly, Austerity was NOT imposed by the normal processes of legislative or executive action. The proximate cause of Austerity was inaction.
The President and the Congress appeared to be incapacitated, totally incapable of acting. This was mostly a clever charade. Just my opinion. The President and Congress pretended they were deadlocked. They were “playing dead.”
Here it is, step-by-step:
- Sequestration was agreed to more than a year ago as a stop-gap future action that was so distasteful it would NEVER be allowed to happen.
- Then, when the time came, everyone refused to stop it from happening. All sides loudly blamed others for failure to act.
Therefore, by previous agreement made over a year ago, sequestration went into effect “AUTOMATICALLY.” It was a pretty slick end run around democracy. Sequestration evaded the normal requirements of majority decision-making and slipped in through the back door.
It is slowly dawning on all of us that maybe the fix was in. Maybe both some Democrats and some Republicans really WANTED sequestration to take effect. Chuck Todd suggested on Meet The Press today that a “silent majority” of Congress may support Sequestration. I agree.
Let’s go to the numbers:
Sequestration reduces U.S. defense spending by 13 percent, and U.S. domestic “discretionary” spending by 9 percent.
Excluded from spending cuts — and they are big exclusions — are the “non-discretionary” domestic programs, that is, “entitlement” programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Also excluded, the salaries of the president, Congress, U.S. judges, and high-level political appointees.
The Sequestration cuts are generally thought to be random, untargeted, across-the-board. Both Democrats and Republicans loudly denounce this method of reducing spending and predict devastating results.
It would be so much better, politicians of all stripes state loudly, to target spending cuts at: the following:
- Programs we already know don’t work.
- Spending we know to be wasteful.
Wait a minute! You mean there are programs we KNOW don’t work? Then why haven’t they already been terminated?
You mean there is spending that we KNOW is wasteful? Well, then why haven’t we discontinued that wasteful spending?
Would somebody please be specific? Please name the programs that we know don’t work and the spending we know to be wasteful.
I fully believe there must be both types of spending in the vast bureaucracy of the federal government. Problem is, it’s hard to get two people to agree on the specifics.
One Republican presidential candidate, in a debate last year, attempted to name three departments that he would terminate. He made a fool of himself on television. After that, I don’t believe any candidate attempted to name three departments or programs of their own. Or even one.
The lesson of this whole painful episode appears to be that the American central government can no longer make major, difficult decisions by majority vote. Obsolete procedures conspire to prevent action. Political will and courage are lacking.
Important decisions, like Sequestration and Austerity, can be made only by government INACTION.
I would happily change my mind if anyone has a better explanation.
— John Hayden
- Ship Of State Drifting Rudderless Toward Sequestration (johnhaydeninmd.com)
- The Sequestration Has Begun, And Here’s The Most Pathetic Part About It All (businessinsider.com)
- Sequestration kicks in: ‘The pain will be real’ (stripes.com)
- Sequestration, Tea Party conspiracy? (salon.com)
- Congressional Inaction on Sequestration Harms Students and Families (camarillocouncilpta.wordpress.com)