Opinion
Get Opinion in your inbox -- sign up for our weekly newsletter
Top of the Ticket
Opinion Top of the Ticket

With sequester, Congress goes over the cliff and off the rails

The United States Congress has reached a new low in callous disregard for the people of this country. One would hope a price would be paid for failing to stop the budget sequestration before dramatic cuts in programs began to kick in, but given the realities of our political system, only common citizens, not politicians, are likely to suffer as a result of this mess.

Unwisely, during one of the manufactured budget crises of 2011, President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner agreed that the penalty for failing to reach a comprehensive budget agreement by the end of 2012 would be automatic, across-the-board budget cuts. Their foolish assumption was that no one would be stupid enough to let such a thing happen. As it turns out, plenty of our elected officials are, indeed, that stupid.

Much of the stupidity – though certainly not all – has been exhibited by the most conservative members of the Republican caucuses in the House and Senate, the so-called tea party Republicans. So intent are they on whittling government down to the size it was back in the days of McKinley and the Robber Barons that even the prospect of major cuts in the defense budget did not phase them. Other steep cuts in dollars for scientific and medical research, education, hunger programs, national parks, infrastructure maintenance, food inspection, airport security and a host of other small but useful governmental activities caused them zero concern since, in the tea party version of reality, all those things are simply more big, bad government.

In the last few days, I’ve seen anecdotal evidence about how the cuts are going to hit real Americans – a nephew who has a new job with an import/export firm anticipating a drop in business because federal inspection and approval processes will be stalled; a first-year teacher who may not get a second-year contract because of federal education funding cuts; Navy shipyard workers facing furloughs and small businesses in the surrounding communities losing customers as a result; a research university retrenching and cutting jobs because federal funding will no longer be there. In most communities throughout the country, such stories will be repeated thousands of times in the coming months if nothing changes in Washington. 

Too ignorant to understand the damage they are doing, zealots on the right are congratulating themselves for being so bold and principled. Yet, as irresponsible as Republicans have proven to be, Democrats are not without blame. There are more than a few on their side of the aisle who are pleased that the military budget has taken a big whack. Never before would Republicans have allowed such a thing to happen, so Democrats who have long wanted to reduce the Pentagon’s bloated budget see this as a bit of a gift.

The problem is that cutting in this manner, indiscriminately and with no focus, is simply a terrible idea. The jobs that will be lost among the military’s civilian employees will boost the unemployment numbers, just like any other jobs. Communities that are most severely affected by reductions in defense programs will suffer just as much as communities that lose factories.

If the federal budget is going to be reduced and reallocated, the task needs to be done intelligently and with the full understanding that federal dollars fertilize every aspect of the U.S. economy. Republicans and Democrats in Congress should have been in high gear trying to avoid this self-inflicted damage, but both sides looked way too relaxed as the budget ax fell.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Retired, Pope Benedict will still be hanging around the house

    Retired, Pope Benedict will still be hanging around the house

    When Pope Celestine V quit his job in 1294, his successor locked him in prison and kept him there until he died. Pope Benedict XVI will not suffer the same sad fate. When he resigns Thursday, not only will he not be jailed, exiled or even sent to a retirement home. He will get to stay in the Vatican.

  • Deficit-deluded tea party Republicans love the sequester scheme

    Deficit-deluded tea party Republicans love the sequester scheme

    The delusions of tea party Republicans are about to create a lot of misery for America. The "sequester" -- the drastic set of budget cuts formerly known as the "fiscal cliff" -- seems very likely to go into effect at the end of this week due in no small part to the fact that hyper-conservative...

  • Would the GOP's healthcare ideas work? It depends on your definition of 'work.'

    Would the GOP's healthcare ideas work? It depends on your definition of 'work.'

    Just like in the 2012 election, every Republican candidate for president wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Some of the candidates have even come forward with ideas for replacing it, and we are beginning to get a sense of what Republican healthcare reform might look like.

  • Compulsory kindergarten: Still a bad idea

    Compulsory kindergarten: Still a bad idea

    Kindergarten hasn't been its old self for a long time. After decades of increasing focus on academics, it recently became more standardized as well; the curriculum for California's 5-year-olds is now aligned with the Common Core academic standards. Kindergarten teachers are no longer preoccupied...

  • Back to school, again and again

    Back to school, again and again

    Even in places that remain in touch with the rhythms of agriculture, few seasonal markers prove as heady, reliable and poignant as the reopening of school. Every September the crosswalks ripen with kids in their back-to-school clothes; the long yellow buses harvest our lanes and streets. First...

  • Return to New Orleans - an open hand, a welcome home

    Return to New Orleans - an open hand, a welcome home

    Like most people with people "at home" in New Orleans, I found myself both here and there in 2005. By late August, I was daily monitoring weather maps two time zones away. I watched how a "tropical system" gathered force, how it garnered enough ferocity to be granted a name. Katrina looked serious,...

Comments
Loading
77°