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 The News: Flying Over an Act of Monumental Stupidity

The great victims of this sequester will be our children, the unemployed, the poor and the elderly — all groups with feeble lobbies or no lobbies at all.

By Donald Kaul

I knew that Congress would come to its senses eventually, that it would realize that the ham-handed budget cuts ordered by the so-called “sequester” weren’t going to work, that some government functions were too important to be cut.

And I was right, kind of.

Last week it restored funds to the Federal Aviation Administration. There had been big lines and flight delays at airports around the country, you see, and we can’t have that.

Congresspersons have to get back to their districts every Friday so they can beg for money and corporate executives have to get to their appointments on time so they’ll have the money to pay off the beggars. It’s called politics.

The way things were going at airports, however, was beyond inconvenient; it was a national crisis. Why, it was probably harming the war effort. I don’t know which war— terror, drugs, Afghanistan — pick one.

So, in a heart-warming example of bipartisanship, Republicans and Democrats joined hands to get the FAA back up to strength and the Republic was saved. ...

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Republicans, of course, could not resist using the occasion to take a whack at President Barack Obama.

“Why is President Obama unnecessarily delaying your flight?” tweeted House majority leader Eric Cantor. (Republicans are shameless in blaming Obama for things that are their fault.)

In truth, the Republicans foisted the farce of this sequester on the nation in 2011. That was when they demanded it in return for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling, which is nothing more than agreeing to pay the bills they’d already run up. The law further requires that agencies, the FAA included, cut all their programs equally on a percentage basis, making it impossible to move funds from nonessential functions to essential. That would be too sensible.

The idea was that this arrangement was such a monumentally stupid idea and would be so harmful to the economy that the parties would be forced to compromise on a real budget.

That badly underestimated the monumental stupidity of the conservatives in Congress. They decided that we didn’t need a real budget since we don’t need government anyway, so the sequester was just fine as it was. And they allowed the cuts to go forward.

Until they caved on air traffic. That’s undoubtedly a precursor to further cherry-picking among government programs. You can count on the well-lobbied programs getting exceptions. (The Agriculture Department has already gotten money to stay the furloughs of meat inspectors.)

It stinks.

The great victims of this sequester will be our children, the unemployed, the poor and the elderly — all groups with feeble lobbies or no lobbies at all.

The government had to cut housing vouchers to 140,000 low-income families, people already on the cusp of homelessness. Seventy thousand preschoolers are going to be turned away from Head Start programs. Unemployment benefits, the only thing standing between the families of millions of jobless workers and hunger, are being cut 11 percent. A program that provides free school breakfasts, sometimes the only decent meal poor kids get on a given day, is being cut by $25 million.

My city of Ann Arbor is a high-tax Granola liberal place that’s proud of its superb schools. And our local officials considered doing away with 10 or more of the reading specialists in the lower grades before working cuts that would drop 80 other staff members into the latest budget proposal.

All in the name of deficit reduction.

The sequester is the economic equivalent of the Iraq War: a self-mutilating blunder undertaken for ideological reasons, rather than any that make sense.

The idea of improving the economy during a recession by cutting the budget harkens back to the days of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. It didn’t work then; it doesn’t work now.

If you don’t believe me, ask the European nations that have been trying to deal with their punk economies by enforcing austerity measures on its Euro zone members with dismal results.

Did I mention that this stinks? It really does.


OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. www.otherwords.org


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative 3.0 License, and distributed by Otherwords.org, a project of Institute for Policy Studies, IPS


[01 May 2013]

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