Sequestration blame game an all-around failure

Sequestration blame game an all-around failure

Washington : DC : USA | Feb 22, 2013 at 11:03 PM PST
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Recent stories about so-called sequestration, which would result in massive across-the-board budget cuts and tax increases if congressional Democrats and Republicans don't come up with at least a patchwork deal by Friday, have shown the same old song and dance from our so-called leaders.

Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been all too eager to pin the blame on President Barack Obama, who is making the case for higher taxes for the rich. Democrats have quickly pointed fingers at Republicans, saying they're trying to balance tax breaks for the wealthy on the backs of the middle and working classes, and slashing essential services. Republicans dismiss those services -- Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps and unemployment insurance -- as "entitlement programs."

Simply stating that the truth lies somewhere in the middle would be too polite, too reverential, too milquetoast. Both parties are at fault, and very few members of either house can look in the mirror and truthfully absolve themselves of guilt.

People from both dominant parties banded together to establish the congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, more commonly known as the Budget Super Committee, on Aug. 2, 2011, in the wake of the fractious debate on raising the so-called debt ceiling. That vote was necessary to prevent the United States from falling into sovereign default, which would mean the US could not pay back its debts.

The inability of Congress and the White House to agree on a debt ceiling deal caused Standard and Poor's to downgrade the United States's AAA credit rating to AA-plus on Aug. 5, 2011. Even though that dropped the rating from an outstanding score to excellent, it became a topic for bitter debate.

The Super Committee was made up of Democrats and Republicans from both houses of Congress, and their goal was to agree on a plan to reduce the debt. Both sides had different ideas for making such a deficit reduction work. Among the ideas Democrats favored was increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans, a segment who could afford to "pay their fair share," according to Democratic talking points. Republicans called for spending cuts, expressing concern that out-of-control spending would be unsustainable and would leave the burden to future generations.

However, cobbling together a compromise deal that might have trimmed more cuts from some programs or might have resulted in less of a tax burden on the rich proved to be too difficult for the committee.

Eventually, both sides decided on a draconian plan involving massive slashes to programs, including defense spending and social programs. This plan was intended to be a last resort in the event neither side caved, or in the even that both sides failed to compromise. It was a last resort that was intimated to be so undesirable that both sides felt a more satisfactory deal to avoid it would eventually come about. It was often known as the fiscal cliff, since the discussion of that deal, which we now know as sequestration, suggested that neither side wanted it.

However, politics being what it usually is, neither side could agree on a deal that got enough support from both sides of the aisle. Breaks, including a break for the run-up to the Nov. 6 presidential election, certainly didn't help both sides reach a long term deal. When the original deadline of Dec. 31, 2012, came and went without a deal, the sides came back shortly after the ball dropped in Times Square to hammer out a short-term solution to avoid the fiscal cliff, extending the deadline to March.

The fact that a long-term budget deal is not in place, even if it's one that leaves Democrats grousing about the wealthy not paying their fair share or Republicans complaining about the so-called job creators being taxed unfairly, is a failure of both parties to remember a basic civics lesson. A president is elected to serve, protect and defend the Constitution, and Congress is elected to represent the people in Washington. The actions of both sides in the debate suggest that they believe they're running the country. They should understand that they are responsible to the American people.

All too often, people in the halls of power spend too much time arguing over issues instead of putting differences aside and doing the work of the people. For all of Boehner's cries of poverty, his decision to appoint a group to oversee the legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act at a cost of over $1.5 million of taxpayer money spent by Oct. 15, 2012, is a stunning act of hypocrisy, especially when a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.

A legislative body that genuinely followed the demands of the people it was elected to serve would have come up with a budget plan that would have successfully addressed the spending cuts and revenue increases needed to reduce the budget deficit. It would have focused the country's priorities on the real needs of the people and not on frivolous appropriations. It would have shown real leadership.

In short, it would not be the Congress we've all come to know and most of us have come to detest. A Congress that has failed to lead. A Congress that currently has a 15 percent approval rating, according to Gallup. A Congress more interested in scoring political points than in getting the job done.

A Congress that deserves to get tossed out of Washington on its collective ears.

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Speaker of the House John Boehner and other member of Congress mark the anniversary of the September 11 attacks
Speaker of the House John Boehner and other member of Congress mark the anniversary of the September 11 attacks
Mike Sarzo is based in Glenn Dale, Maryland, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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