Sequestration Explained: What Is(n’t) Happening in Washington?
I won’t lie. When I first heard the word “sequestration,” I had no idea what it really meant. The term was automatically added to my “Google this before trying to talk intelligently with anyone who knows more than you” (that’s a lot of people). Out front I want to admit, I don’t know everything there is to know about this topic. I wanted to give a general outline of some of the facts so more people could have a basic understanding of what’s going on (or NOT going on) in Washington. I’ll make sure to add some links to outside resources if you want to learn more.
If you’ve read any headlines lately or happened across the word “sequestration” you may also be wondering what it’s all about. The funny part is … actually, there’s very little that is funny about this sequester, but if we were to find one small hint of humor in our dysfunctional government, try looking up sequester in the dictionary. The first definition would be this:
se-ques-ter (verb): to remove or withdraw into solitude. To isolate.
That’s exactly what members of Congress and the President did the day the actual sequester went into effect. Most members of Congress flew home on Thursday, and after a short, hourlong meeting at the White House on Friday, Congressional Leadership and the President finished work for the week. Well, the President had one last thing to do – sign the order to being the $85 billion spending cuts.
What is it?
The sequester is a list of automatic spending cuts signed into law back in 2011 by the Budget Control Act and set to take effect on March 1, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. This Budget Control Act of 2011 applies pressure to Congress and the White House to come up with a long-term plan for deficit reduction. If they didn’t come up with this plan (which they didn’t) then the bill outlines $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years and $85 billion of those cuts taking place the rest of the 2013 fiscal year.
How did we get here?
Back in 2011, the government was facing another crisis in the fact that they needed to raise the debt ceiling in order to avoid a government shutdown. Republicans in charge of the House wanted the government to make serious spending cuts (different than the sequester cuts, which are across the board with no delicate picking and piecing together of what gets cut and what stays) and Democrats in the Senate and the White House wanted to gain more revenue to pay down our deficit (increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans). They decided to come to a, umm… compromise? Well, actually they decided to create a bill to raise the debt ceiling and then create a scenario of across-the-board spending cuts that would essentially scare them into making a compromise in two years. Yeah, that didn’t happen.
What’s getting cut?
There are many programs and departments across the government dealing with these dramatic cuts. Even the White House had to cancel tours due to the sequester cuts and the National Archives was debating closing its doors to tourists as well. What are cuts that you should be informed about and could potentially affect your life? Here are just a few.
- Public Safety
- National Defense.
Why can’t we come to a compromise?
If you haven’t noticed. politicians in Washington don’t like compromise very much. The recent political winds have brought us a polarized system where the moderates of political parties are pushed out by those the furthest left and right of the isle. There are many other explanations as to why we can’t come up with an agreed upon budget for our country, but they mostly just blame the person or party that doesn’t align with their personal political philosophy. Both sides have tried in their own ways of reaching out and coming to a compromise. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Republican Congressman John Boehner, has made multiple trips to the White House for meetings to try and see if the President would compromise on how to reduce the deficit. President Obama recently made a trip to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress and also held a dinner at the White House with key Republicans to ease some of the tension between him and the GOP. Will any of this work? Only time will tell.
My two cents
Well, we’re not anywhere closer to a compromise or a way to lift the sequester and reduce our deficit. With a Democrat in the White House and a strong GOP House and narrow Democratic Senate, it’s going to take a lot of humbling by both sides to get anywhere. Both sides are convinced the American people are on their side, but in fact, most Americans just want our Federal Government to actually work. Your guess is as good as mine as to what will ultimately be the straw that breaks the egotistical back of our Government and creates at least SOME sort of path forward.