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Sequestration: Another manufactured crisis

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Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 12:00 am

With the approval rating of Congress at 12 percent, it is clear that Americans are frustrated with yet another manufactured crisis where the economy is held hostage by right-wing Republicans who would prefer to see chaos rather than work with Democrats and moderate Republicans who prefer to support economic stability.

During the manufactured debt ceiling crisis last year, Republicans like Michelle Bachman were congratulated for voting against the debt ceiling, a vote which caused the U.S. credit rating to fall for the first time in decades, costing the country over a billion dollars in interest alone. The irony is that the debt that the right did not want to pay was already approved by Congress, and the vote against raising the debt ceiling was simply a refusal by Congress to pay bills they had already incurred.

Now we have the latest manufactured crisis, the Sequestration. The Sequestration is the Budget Control Act of 2011. In 2011 a bipartisan Super Committee was formed in Congress to address deficit issues by looking at spending cuts and revenue. After meeting and failing to come to any agreement Congress created the Budget Control Act, which provides for spending cuts to kick in on March 1 — cuts so draconian that this action was supposed to ensure that Congress would come to a more reasonable agreement on spending before the dreaded Sequester would kick in. March 1 is less than a week away.

So what did the Congress do? They decided to adjourn for 10 days.

What are the consequences if the Budget Control Act goes into effect? Here are just a few examples: According to the Congressional Budget Office, the sequester could reduce economic growth by 0.6 percent and reduce job growth by 750,000 positions. Layoffs would include 14,000 teachers and staff. Public safety would be affected by 14-day furloughs for FBI agents, and reduced hours for police officers and the border patrol. National Parks will see reduced hours and services, and there will be increased waits at airports.

Also affected will be food inspections, weather monitoring, medical research, disaster response, educational programs, Meals on Wheels for seniors, as well as Head Start programs, cancer screenings and student loans. So those who want less government will definitely get it.

Acting undersecretary Jessica Wright has stated that effects of sequestration "will be devastating to our military personnel, but on our civilians it will be catastrophic." So much for our national security.

Closer to home, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that "federal cuts could send (the) state reeling." They report that there will be an estimated $3.2 billion cut in military spending, and the loss of $115 million in federal money for job training, afterschool programs, housing assistance and public safety. Cuts in non-defense spending could be as much as $670 million in 2013.

Even though Speaker of the House John Boehner rejected the Grand Bargain offered by President Obama, Boehner has admitted in a CBS interview that he believes that the president has negotiated in good faith. When the Budget Control Act that created the sequestration was passed by two-thirds of the Republicans in Congress — including Speaker Boehner — the Speaker said that he got 98 percent of what he wanted, adding, "I'm pretty happy." However, on Feb. 20, in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, Speaker Boehner now says that the sequester is an "ugly and dangerous way" to cut spending. Even so, he and the Congress decided to take a vacation rather than address the crisis.

Speaker Boehner has stated that there will be no discussion on revenue, and that only spending cuts are on the table. President Obama has never said that there will be no discussion on spending cuts, or that he will discuss only revenue. The president has consistently offered a balanced approach, which includes spending cuts and, as part of revenue, reduction of subsidies to Big Oil (which they undoubtedly can afford to give up in light of their present gouging of gas prices), and fewer tax breaks on luxury items such as corporate jets. Rather, Republicans would like to reduce Head Start and Meals on Wheels.

It is undeniable that the right wing of the Republican Party has done everything it can to frustrate any policy or potential nominee if either were supported by President Obama. For four years, they have filibustered their way to making the Congress the least-productive and most disliked in decades — perhaps in history. Isn't it time for the Republican Party to stop trying to cause President Obama (and this country) to fail, and think about the citizens who put them in office to govern?

Cynthia Neely of Lodi is a retired city attorney.

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