The sequester and other ridiculous things

February 28, 2013

So it’s looking unlikely that Washington will do anything to prevent the sequester, the automatic spending cuts put in place to try to force Washington to find a way forward on spending, from starting to take effect tomorrow. The president and congressional leaders will meet tomorrow to discuss next steps.

Hardly anyone likes the sequester—it was designed to be disliked—but no one has the right combination of power and incentives to simply repeal it, either. House Republicans have passed a bill before that would replace the sequester’s defense cuts with even bigger cuts to domestic spending, but it's not clear that it could pass now even in the House. The Senate hasn’t passed anything, though Democrats have proposed a plan that would channel domestic cuts primarily toward farm bill reforms that Congress couldn’t get done last year.

If you think the sequester standoff sounds like a ridiculous way to make farm policy, agribusiness lobbyists and their congressional allies agree. But the whole thing’s ridiculous: the general obsession with budget deficits, the pattern of governing from one fabricated showdown to the next, the political disincentives for meaningful compromise.

For that matter, the farm bill’s ostensibly normal process is absurd as well. The conversation’s about farm policy, but most of the dollars go to food stamps, a successful and crucial anti-poverty program that is (for no good reason) part of the farm bill. And the food stamps compel a lot of legislators to vote for the omnibus bill, corporate welfare for agribusiness and all. Is this a more sensible way to set farm policy than what the Senate Democrats are proposing?

In fact it’s never an inspiring thing to see how the sausages get made, even if the sausages themselves sometimes are. So I for one would be thrilled to see some pro-sustainability farm reforms; I don’t care if they’re attached by mistake to a bill renaming a post office or whatever.

At any rate, the Senate proposal isn’t going anywhere. Looks like the sequester will take effect, and leaders of both parties will deal with it after the fact. That’s a real shame, because the sequester’s going to hurt.

In better news, the House is poised to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, complete with the Senate’s expanded protections for gays and lesbians, undocumented immigrants and (as Debra highlighted yesterday) Native American women. House Republicans can’t pass the narrower version they prefer, so rather than blow the whole thing up they’re going to live with the Senate’s version. Good for them—that’s how governing is supposed to work.

But by and large it doesn't happen. The sequester debacle has made it clearer than ever that when it comes to the great big, overarching decisions, our system of governance is pretty much broken.


If nothing changes; nothing changes

In my neighborhood I noticed a flag flying at half mast the other day. Could not figure out why, had not been an event that I was aware of that warrented this action. No other flags around town were at half mast. I decided to make up my own cause - it's a symbol of a nation in mourning because our "leadership" has lost all ability to think with creativity and risk and boldness when it comes to problem solving the countries financial woes. So, as an average citizen with no credentials in economics, I offer the following as possibilites to balance our budget and pay down our debt:

1. Legalize marijuana in all 50 states. Tax the hell out of it and make certain the tax revenue goes to paying back our creditors.

2. Bring the steel industry back to the United States. I know, I know.."too expensive!", "unions!", "pollution!" Good grief...figure it out. This country is rich with idea people who know how to think critically. 

3. Bring back the textile industry to the United States. (Please see #2 above.)

4. Design and build automobiles that are 100% made in the USA. Compete with Toyota and Honda. The technology is in place, we have an incredible work force that is up to the task. 

5. Take a good hard look at who is getting our money and why. If it does not make sense bring it back here and pay down the debt. Please, stop giving away billions to nations that hate our guts.

I, like most Americans I speak with, am sick and tired of the old mantra..."cost to much to make it here." No it doesn't. Or, even if it what?  I'd pay two dollars more for a sweatshirt made at a clothing manufacturing in North Carolina. Again...figure it out. It CAN be done.  When Americans are working, they spend...some at Walmart, some at Neiman Marcus. Doesn't matter. In a short amount of time the country reaps the benefits of a strong workforce. Come on Washington D.C....we aren't stupid out here. Do something different for a change: Lead. Think. Try something new. You are stuck and to borrow a phrase from the good folks at Alcoholics Annonymous..."if what you're doing isn't working, try something else."

I agree with you about the

I agree with you about the need to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. Not sure about #5--are you talking about foreign aid? That's a tiny share of the federal budget. Or about buying Middle Eastern oil? That's a hard thing to just stop doing, since oil is traded on a global market.