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The Rational Center | Commentary by John Zaring
| Tuesday, Mar 5, 2013

johnzaring2012If you are a regular reader of The Rational Center, you’re likely a member of my family (hi mom!) or a friend. If you are neither, then you must be a political junkie like me. Why else would anyone but a masochist invest even one minute to follow the ridiculousness underway in our nation’s capitol?

Washington, D.C., is on fire, friends. Not literally. Only figuratively. But it is burning brightly, like one of our famed Southern California wildfires which from a distance looks eerily intoxicating. Of course, the closer you get, the more ugliness you see, and the more damage that’s revealed.

Up close, you see just how terrible fire truly is.

This sequester is like a spark in a patch of grass that gradually spreads and spreads until one day we’ve got a full-blown wildfire on our hands. When that happens, there will be fewer firefighters around to fight that fire, so who will be laughing then?

Our elected idiots put the proverbial Sword of Damocles over their own collective dunderhead and then let it swing right on down to lop it off. While I enjoy that imagery, I’m so sick and tired of this lurching from crisis to crisis to crisis I want to open up a window, “Network” style, and scream, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

No one will hear me. Our leaders in Congress are not only dumb; they are deaf, too.

Not one economist thought letting sequestration happen would be a good thing. It was created simply to be a negative, to be so ugly it would be unthinkable to let it happen. Few politicians thought this is what the country should do, either, and yet they did it anyway, displaying a sheer lack of concern for the wanton infliction of harm it will cause to the country’s economy.

I know not much has happened yet, and truth be told, not much will happen right away. There won’t be an apocalypse tomorrow, this week or even this month, but eventually it will begin to impact regular people – the powerless, hard-working Americans who live paycheck to paycheck.

When all kinds of federal workers are told to stay home, that’s when things will turn even worse, and later, when money to states is cut and funds for local government dries up, when those firefighters and cops or teachers get laid off, it will have the same effect as when someone in the private sector gets laid off.

In my opinion, it is time to stop acting as if government is a devil that we are just barely surviving; in reality, government is part of how we live and maintain what’s great about America.

Despite what Rand Paul says, government jobs are real jobs. Tell the firefighter nearest to you when something you own is on fire that his job isn’t real.

Last Friday, hours before the deadline, President Barack Obama called congressional leaders to the White House, but the meeting lasted less than one hour, so pretty much it was for show. Obama then walked straight to the press room to announce that the sequester was the “choice” of Republicans. Meanwhile, GOP leaders gathered before cameras outside of the White House to call it “the president’s sequester.”

No matter who is spinning it, the sequester is stupid, dumb and arbitrary. At a time when the economy is still weak, it concentrates all of the austerity right up front, and it doesn’t discriminate between programs that are helpful and successful and those that are not. It just makes cuts across the board without reducing the debt by even one penny. Not one cent.

It also has a generational inequity. Because the cuts come from discretionary, day-to-day spending, it does not impact the so-called entitlement expenses that are largely responsible for the nation’s debt. Instead, it cuts deeply into programs where we invest in the next generation: education, infrastructure, research and development.

Europe has shown you can’t simply cut your way to economic prosperity. This is why, at the heart of the Simpson-Bowles plan, which both sides now cite as the blueprint for a solution, you’ll find the idea that short-term stimulus is needed to boost economic activity in the near term, combined with a long-term commitment to a reduction in spending. It was a Grand Bargain that would have dealt with tax reform in a serious and substantive way and at the same time dealt with entitlement reform.

The only way that can happen now is for Congress to come to its senses and make a deal with President Obama.

Still, the power players in D.C. appear content to play with the fate of the powerless, and I fear that because the sequester will only affect the most vulnerable and not them, they are likely to keep repeating this nonsense instead of finding a circuit breaker that will allow agreement on the big things while not sweating the small stuff.

The president said, “I am not a dictator. I am the president. I cannot force these guys to do it.”

He’s right, that’s up to us. Are you mad enough yet?

John Zaring describes himself as a reformed Republican turned moderate Democrat who believes democracy works best when its government actually functions because its leaders are working together. He serves on the Castaic Area Town Council’s Land Use Committee, Castaic Middle School’s Site Council, the Hart District’s WiSH Education Foundation, and he is the West Ranch High School representative on the Hart District’s Advisory Council. A self-proclaimed “New Democrat” a la Bill Clinton, he lives in Castaic with his wife of 21 years and their daughters, Fiona, 16, and Kylie, 12. His commentary publishes Tuesdays.

 

 

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