On March 1, the world will end -- again.
That's the date that sequestration kicks in. Sequestration is the technical name for yet another Congressionally created fiscal cliff crisis.
Congress built into its budget "crisis" deal with the Tea Party two years ago a series of really nasty budget slashing if it couldn't reach a deal on a balanced budget in order to "force" it to fix the budget problems.
And, of course, it hasn't. The hands that could have been constructively writing a deal and then shaking over it have instead been pointing fingers at each other. The American public is ready to hurl.
One of the federal departments that will feel the wrath of sequestration the most is the Department of Defense. No one wanted to hurt DoD in time of war, so obviously Congress would solve its problems first. But, the war is winding down, too many members of Congress are secretly anti-military anyway (it's just been too politically dangerous to say so explicitly in the last ten years) and solving problems doesn't seem to be in the skill set of way too many members of Congress. Posturing? They're good at that. Problem solving? Less so.
Since the military is a very important component of this community, watching what happens over the next two weeks in Washington, D.C., will be vital. To prepare for what is happening, the Air Force already has imposed a hiring freeze on civilian jobs. If sequestration cuts in, most of those civilian employees, hundreds of thousands of them across the country, will face mandatory furloughs of up to 22 days -- or a 20 percent cut in their salary. That hurts -- not just their families, but the communities they live in. In little Idaho alone, among all military facilities in the state, that will represent 700 people and $5.5 million in wages lost. The bulk of those people are in our community here in Mountain Home.
This is how playing politics at the national level hurts Main Street at the local level.
More and more, we're convinced Congress needs to bite the bullet and build a budget based primarily on the principles in the Simpson-Bowles proposal. It's sort of budgetary tough love. But it would work. If only Congress would think about the nation, not the pork rolling into their own districts.
We can't keep lurching from one fiscal cliff to another and there is a plan out there put together by a bi-partisan Congressional panel that would go a long ways toward solving our problems. Use it.
Congress must quit playing games and solve the mess it has created.
-- Kelly Everitt