I'm getting increasingly worried about the process of sequestration -- a word everybody needs to know. Essentially, it's a government form of armageddon and it is rapidly approaching.
Sequestration arises out of the "budget crisis" in Congress last year. Forget that the debt ceiling has been raised more than 40 times since WWII (with Reagan doing so more than any other president). For a while, it was manageable, then like a consumer's credit card, in recent decadesit started to spiral out of control. There have been calls to do something about it since the 1960s -- but nobody did. It was far easier to rob Peter in order to give a handout or tax break to Paul. Both parties have held power during that time and neither one wanted to give up their pet projects. A decision delayed is a political victory.
Then last year a bunch of radical Republicans (mainly Tea Party nuts), decided to hold the government hostage unless the debt was immediately reined in. Although they were now government policy makers, they had little idea about how the government works or is financed. To change the patterns on the dishes in the china shop they sent in a bull. The actual "crisis" at the time was fabricated, but it had some very real effects and will lead to a very real crisis later this year.
One of those real effects was a reduction in the U.S. bond rating, which had a serious impact on borrowing rates. It helped weaken and already fragile European economy, and that's important because of how deeply the American and European economies are tied to each other. It's actually important to know how or if the Spanish banks are going to be bailed out and everyone should send a card of thanks to the Germans for saving Europe by serving as the reluctant banker for those bailouts. So, the phony crisis had a major impact on the world economy.
Then there was the joke of the supercommittee. To keep the government running, Congress agreed to create a "bipartisan" supercommittee to come up with recommendations on how to fix the budget (even though there already where some viable plans on the table being pushed by congressmen like Idaho's Mike Simpson and Mike Crapo). The supercommittee started off with its Republican leaders announcing they would be willing to compromise -- as long as the Democrats gave them everything they wanted. The word compromise apparently means something different in Washington, D.C., than it does anywhere else in the world. The Democrats responded by promptly digging in their heels just as deep and the supercommittee quickly became just a soap box for politicians and another waste of the taxpayer's money.
Which left sequestration. As part of the deal struck to continue the government Congress agreed to create a Sword of Damocles over its own head. If, by the end of this year, Congress hasn't created a plan to balance the budget and reduce the deficit, a whole bunch of very bad things will happen -- alll things that nobody really wants to see happen.
For example, look at the military. DoD did more than it's part when it agreed to cut more than $400 billion from its expenditures over the next four years. No other federal agency or department did such a good job of responding to President Obama's call for some belt tightening. Those cuts will leave us with a small, but capable force.
However, if sequestration cuts in, another half a trillion dollars will automatically be cut. We'll become a paper tiger, a hollow force that a well-armed Boy Scout troop could take on. R&D programs would be shut down, costing us the long-term edge in future weapons we've always enjoyed. Development of new weapon systems will be halted. We'll wind up, for example, selling F-35s overseas, while being unable to buy them for ourselves. Right now, we've got the grandchildren of the original pilots flying F-15s, and those planes will have to last us a lot longer than originally intended, despite having had the wings flown off them during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Already, concerned about sequestration, DoD is warning its contractors that a lot of FY13 contracts may be forced to be put on hold or canceled altogether. There is massive confusion and uncertainty in the military industrial complex that forms the backbone of our economy. We may have planes on the ramp out here, but there may not be any gas to fly them.
From Medicare, Medicaid to Social Security and on down through meat and food inspections, national park services and subsidizes to local and state governments, everything is going to get slashed.
Talk to any government employee or official and they're worried.
Yet, with less than 30 days left on the working calendar for Congress between now and the end of the year (the number of days they'll actually be in session) a problem that has been debated without a successful resolution for decades must be resolved. If, of course, anyone were actually talking about it in Congress -- which they're not, as they all jockey for re-election, instead.
Best guess? They'll "delay" sequestration, raise the debt ceiling again and, once again, pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running using a budget first approved four years ago. In effect, they'll bail out once again on their responsibilities.
But then, we should be used to that, shouldn't we?
The definition of insanity is trying something over and over again and expecting different results. The halls of Congress must be filled with rubber rooms because what they're doing these days is downright crazy.