Be honest now. How many of you dear, intelligent readers know what would have to have been done in order to avoid the blunt axe budget cuts of the 2013 sequester we are now facing? I’m looking for some specifics here. Yes, I know the repubs would have to agree with the dems on something, but what is it that they needed to agree on? Yes, I also know that it has to do with budget deficits, but what exactly needed to be done, by whom, when?
After asking all the smart people I know, and spending untold hours inquiring of the source of all knowledge, I was about to conclude that, while opinions were many, facts were scarce. No one knew. No one knew the specific act that would have put the looming sequester asunder. No one knew who was supposed to do what. And few knew specifically what problem was being presumably solved. Most agreed that the sequester was bad insofar as they understood it, but when pressed for specifics on exactly how much it would affect the budget this year or next, people tended to clear their throats and look the other way. When asked what departments of government would have to cut how much, and when…eyes rolled. Some mumbled, er, ah about two percent, but of what and when they knew not.
I must say, I find this more than a little odd. The airways have been filled with prognostications of doom. Pundits of all stripes have pontificated myriad of theories about who’s to blame. Yards of column inches in news publications in cyberspace and here on planet earth have been filled with yammering and guffawing on the sequester. All of this and the vast majority of the body politic knows exactly nada.
Now, you can rest easy. I’m not going to give you a learned (or otherwise) discourse on the fine art of government budget obfuscation, but some basics are in order.
First, the word itself. To sequester as a verb means to isolate or hide away, and as a noun the meaning is “a general cut in government spending”. In the case at point, I think both are accurate. Its etymology is either from the middle english sequestren, the anglo-french sequester or from the Latin sequestrare. So you can see this word was confused from its beginning.
Ok, you all remember of Budget Control Act of 2011, don’t you. Of course you do. It was that wonderful piece of political pandering and miscalculation that presumed twelve of our finest elected representatives could agree on a package of cuts in spending and increases in revenues that would result in a reduction in our deficit of $1.5 trillion (yes that’s trillion with a T). Further, in a blinding flash of insight, the law mandated that when the committee of twelve did not succeed, $1.2 trillion of future budgets would be “sequestered” over a period from 2013 to 2021. Well, it’s really not $1.2 trillion when you deduct for interest payments that would not have to be paid on the lower level of borrowing required. To save you the math, it equates to a total of about $894 billion or $109 billion per annum. No hill for a climber you say. After all, that’s only about 2.3% of the federal budget. Hell, anyone can do that. Watch the shells move and find the pea. The sequester, in the infinite wisdom of the congress, only applies to that amount of the budget that is “discretionary” or about thirty percent of the total budget. So two percent of one hundred percent translates into ??% of thirty percent. That’s ok, I can’t figure it out either, but it’s a lot more than 2.3%. If you do a deep dive into the details, other than getting a massive headache, you will find some areas, including the department of defense, will have to cut into the bone to meet the requirements of the law.
To say that this whole mess is insane, misses the mark. Insanity implies a medical condition which precludes normal behavior. A better descriptor would be inane…you know, silly, senseless, stupid. If needed, this whole process is proof positive of the inability of our political parties, as they are currently constructed, to govern for the benefit of the those to be governed. It certainly reinforces my sentiment of not wanting to vote for any politician who wants to be elected.
I will, forthwith, proceed with my project to create a new political party in America. I haven’t found quite the right name for it yet, but I know it’s slogan. “Let’s throw the b#@*!^ds out whoever they are.”
ps. How many of the “Supercommittee of Twelve” who were charged with coming up with a plan that would have avoided sequestration can you name? Can you just name one? I thought so.