The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Opinion

March 5, 2013

Primus Mootry: Thoughts on the sequestration madness as it takes effect

Well, it’s official. We are now a sequestered nation. In describing the fancy term and its real world foolishness, late-night comedian Bill Maher compared it to an overweight person who, unable to maintain a sensible diet, rigs a stick of dynamite timed to explode if his or her refrigerator door is opened too many times. It’s madness.

That’s right. All the House, Senate and President Barack Obama had to do to avert the human miseries and the reported adverse consequences of sequestration was to say “stop it.” Unfortunately, those simple words would have to be written first by the House, passed on the Senate, then signed by Obama.

But, as I understand it, the House stood firm on its pledge of no new revenues and, in so doing, turned down a 2 for 1 compromise from the president. That’s two dollars of cuts for every dollar of revenue, primarily from closing tax loopholes for the super-rich and scalpel cuts to a variety of government programs. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Instead of closing loopholes and scalpel cuts, however, what we got is a budgetary meat ax put in place two years ago. When put into place, the idea was to create a deadline for compromise on deficit reduction measures and to use the draconian sequestration meat ax to force both sides to the bargaining table. Didn’t happen. They decided to play with dynamite.

And so, as most of us have heard by now, as a result of sequestration, over time throughout this year, severe cuts will be made to government spending without much regard for the consequences of those cuts. Those consequences include cuts to everything from the military and the National Guard, to government services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, jobs programs, school districts, housing, services to the elderly, children, the poor, and other important programs.

The ripple effect, of course, means tens of thousands of lost jobs across the board, potential increases in homelessness, an economic downturn, and so on. Nasty stuff. These effects are usually described in fancy percentages and numbers wrapped in the larger discussion of what should be done to reduce the nation’s $16 trillion debt. But the reported gloom and doom of sequestration, in plain language, means dramatic suffering in human lives and, no doubt, the premature death of many American citizens. It’s beyond madness.

So here we are, the laughingstock of the world, treating a terrible, totally avoidable, self-inflicted wound. But, let me tell you. The morning the sequester took effect, I woke up, kissed my beautiful wife on the cheek, threw on a bathrobe, and went to look out the window.

The sky was a steely cold gray, with the sun just barely visible from behind a motionless cloud. I saw one of my neighbors bundled up, walking her pooch the way she does every morning. Father down the street, a garage door opened. Another neighbor backed his car out and drove away. Then, it was back to the kitchen for a cup of coffee while I read the news.

Everything seemed quite ordinary and wonderful, in spite of the fact that Beltway blowhards had done everything possible to scare the public with talk of sequestration — airplanes crashing, people standing in unemployment lines, homeless shelters and food pantries overwhelmed — an economic Apocalypse.

Truth is, we have witnessed so much scary behavior from our do-nothing Congress, and we have grown so accustomed to last-minute deals, it’s hard to get scared anymore. It’s like grandma used to say: “We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

I do not minimize the negative effects of sequestration that, unless the foolish scheme is reversed, are likely to occur. But a wise man once said, “cast down your bucket where you are.” That means play the hand you’re dealt.

Everything we think is a blessing is not a blessing; everything we believe to be a curse is not a curse. There is not a single person in the House, the Senate, or the Oval Office who we did not vote into that office.

God willing, the sun will come up tomorrow. Whatever comes of the sequester mess, we will get through it. And, hopefully, the experience of the past four or five years will help us understand that it is never a good idea to vote against our own interests.

Have a nice day.

Anderson resident Primus Mootry is a retired school teacher. His column appears Wednesdays in The Herald Bulletin.

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