A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, March 04, 2013

Sequester Junction, What's Your Dysfunction?

Warning: This post contains some snark. Proceed at your own risk.
When I was young, Saturday morning cartoons were part of my weekly routine. ABC would play brief instructional cartoons on grammar and the workings of government et al set to lyrics and music. One of the videos concerned the proper use of conjunctions entitled, "Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function?"

Another video moves through the steps on how a bill becomes a law according to the U.S. Constitution:

Well, if ABC Schoolhouse Rock were to make an instructional video on the recent sequester nonsense, I suggest it be entitled, "Sequester Junction, What's Your Dysfunction?"There is little doubt in my mind and in the minds of many just how dysfunctional the White House and Congress have become. It is not possible to script a reality TV show this ridiculous.

Of course, both sides are engaging in their favorite competition called "Blame the Other Side." And as usual, the partisan minions on the left and the right, who are more interested in having their way than telling the truth, are chiming right in with the White House and both parties in Congress in spreading the blame-game deception. Unfortunately for the extremist toadies on both sides of the political aisle (snark intended) fact checkers, who are more interested in the truth beg to differ. Fact-Check.org states,
President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner emerged from their White House meeting on sequestration blaming each other for the automatic spending cuts and misrepresenting the other side's position:
Obama's remarks left the false impression that Boehner has reneged on a GOP plan to raise $800 billion by limiting tax breaks for the wealthy. Boehner offered that plan in December as an alternative to raising income tax rates. But that plan was dropped when Obama and Republicans agreed to raise rates, effective Jan. 1.
Boehner said the Senate hasn't done "anything" to replace the across-the-board cuts with a more reasonable plan, while the House has passed two bills. But both House bills passed in a prior session. The Senate is the only body that attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to pass legislation this year. The fact is: Neither chamber has passed a bill this congressional session to avoid the cuts.
There's more misrepresentation from both sides that can be read here. The blame game may be fun when one side hates the other, but it gets us nowhere in solving problems. I read somewhere this week (I can't remember where, so if I find it, I will give credit to the source) that the blame game between the President and the Republicans in Congress resembles two hunters who shoot a large deer that falls on top of them. Instead of helping each other get out from under the dead animal, they lay there arguing over whose idea it was to go hunting in the first place. I think that highlights very well the nonsense that has become Washington D.C.

Actually, I think the sequester was a good idea, not because I like the idea of cuts across the board, but because it was put in place in the first place because of Washington's inability to come together and exercise some fiscal responsibility in the form of serious spending cuts (which includes entitlement reform) and additional tax revenues. Sane economists who lean left and right all insist that a combination of both is needed. Those few economists who keep arguing that only spending cuts or only revenue increases are necessary continue to demonstrate that they are living in an economic world that may work on another planet in another galaxy, but will not solve the economic problems in a country of fifty states on the third blue green rock from the sun (snark intended).

I have said it before and I will say it again-- politics in the United States has become so polarized because of the extremists on both sides who control both parties-- the loony left and the wacky right as I like to refer to them (snark intended). Even if the loons are convinced that only revenue increases are necessary, and even if the wackos are sure that only spending cuts are necessary, the reality is that in a democracy where compromise is necessary to get things done, there is no way either side will get everything of what they want while leaving the other side with nothing. It doesn't work that way in Western democracies.

The reality of our sequester is the result of something many have known for a long time. It's not political parties fighting that is the major problem (that has happened since our inception). It is also not about distorting the other side's views and proposals (lying is always unfortunate, but that too has happened in politics since the beginning). What many have known for a long time is that the polarization of both parties and their minions and toadies who encourage it in their political religious zealotry (snark intended) have created such dysfunction, it should be no surprise that the significant challenges of our time cannot be met.

Moreover, we continue to face a dearth of leadership in Washington D.C. I have to tell you I have seen no one in either party demonstrate any kind of leadership that would make me want to follow. True leadership is revealed in times of adversity, not comfort. The President would rather travel and complain about Congress campaign-style and take time to play golf with Tiger Woods than seriously sit down with the leaders of Congress to do the hard work of governing. And John Boehner can't even get his own House Republicans together to move forward with a credible plan the President can take seriously. And just when the cuts are set to go into place, in a myopic move where the officers abandon the ship leaving the passengers to drown, Congress heads out of town for recess.... Well played.

I don't like the sequester, and there is no doubt that some people will suffer because of it, but it will hardly be the Armageddon our politicians are predicting in their latest attempt to "cry wolf." The cuts amount to approximately 2% of the federal budget. If families all over America are adjusting to cuts in their income of 2% and more, the government can handle it too.

Moreover, Washington continues to target cuts in discretionary spending alone, which will not bring the deficit down over time. That only amounts to approximately 10% of the budget, which is precisely where we should be spending because much discretionary spending is an investment in the future (such as an upgrade to infrastructure). The real drivers of the deficit are not discretionary.

On the other side, more revenue is necessary. I do not buy the argument that taxes are high enough. The tax increases passed at the end of 2012 will fund the federal government annually for five days. And the reality is that just taxing the wealthy alone will not do it. If we the American people want certain things from government, all of us have to be willing to pay for it. Currently 50% of workers pay nothing in income tax. That is unjust.

The bigger concern is not the sequester, but the kind of dysfunction in Washington that made the idea of sequester necessary in the first place. Our political leadership continues to fail because... well... they don't appear to be very good leaders.

And before we are too critical of our leaders, let us not forget that We the People elected ALL of them on BOTH SIDES of the political aisle. John Adams noted that our elected officials would only be as good and effective and virtuous as the people who put them in office. If Adams was right, things are not very encouraging.

There's no way Schoolhouse Rock could make a three minute video explaining this nonsense.


Oloryn said...

Amen, Allen. And as bad as it looks, I suspect Adams would agree that our Representatives are much more representative than we'd like to admit.

Allan R. Bevere said...