Apparently Washington works on a different calendar than the rest of the country.
Sequestration — the inelegant across-the-board spending cuts in federal programs — is set to start falling Friday ... even as President Obama meets that morning with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders to discuss a possible solution.
It’s looking more and more like there simply isn’t one. Democrats and President Obama, who got a tax hike on the wealthiest Americans in December, want more tax increases in the form of closing deductions incorporated into a solution. Republicans, who thought that the solution would come from spending cuts following the December agreement for the tax increase, want that deal kept.
Regardless of whether the chopping begins Friday, we have all learned two lessons:
- Our federal government has reached a new low in dysfunction;
- Politicians worry more about who to blame than what’s being blamed.
For the past few weeks, it’s appeared there has been no real effort to head off sequestration. Obama has been on a “sky is falling” tour, and worst-case scenarios abound from agencies that won’t be protected from the budget ax.
The primary goal of both sides over the past few weeks, from all evidence, has been to let any disaster that will strike happen and find a way to blame the other side. While Obama has tried to pass it all off as a Republican product, the fact is that the White House was a moving force in getting the sequester legislation considered. And while Republicans have tried equally hard to stick the sequester to Obama and Democratic leadership, the fact is they agreed to it.
If anyone in the White House, House of Representatives or Senate wants to know who’s to blame for indiscriminate budget cuts, all he or she has to do is look in a mirror. The face of the perpetrator will be staring back.
With planned spending of $3.8 trillion in Fiscal Year 2013, which has only seven months left, the argument that there isn’t $85 billion in wasted spending — 2.2 percent of the total spending for the year — is ludicrous. As we noted before, the federal government already knows there was $44 billion in improper Medicare spending last year alone.
In the long run, our nation’s fiscal health will require finding ways to generate more revenue and to cut spending. The tax code needs to be examined, and unfair loopholes should be dealt with. But that should be done on a deliberate basis, not thrown in as part of a deal.
The argument that federal spending, which will exceed our nation’s income by $901 billion in FY 2013, can’t be curbed strategically rather than across the board — especially for a prorated savings over the last seven months of the fiscal year — doesn’t hold water. Strong leadership would not allow the nation’s defense to be hampered by political posturing.
Allowing these spending cuts to take place willy-nilly — as the White House and Congress are poised to do — is unconscionable, and those who allow it to happen will have failed miserably at their jobs. If their ineptitude results in the U.S. economy tanking and costing Americans jobs, this collection of failed leaders should be the first in the unemployment line.