Sequestration is an ugly specter that has been haunting us for months like a hoard of brain dead zombies. No matter what is said about the dangers of sequestration or the noble but empty pronouncements by our elected officials, it just won’t die. It just keeps slowly walking toward the federal check book threatening to devour everything in its path.
The sequestration is scheduled for March 1, just two very short weeks away, and it requires automatic, across-the-board spending cuts if Congress can’t agree on a sensible budget. Even an insensible budget would stop the sequestration. It was a plan agreed on during the overheated summer of 2011 when congressional Republicans and the White House were doing a ‘Gunfight at OK Corral’ thing over legislation to raise the debt limit. Negotiations finally led to the Budget Control Act of 2011, which traded a short term rise in the debt ceiling for deficit reduction measures totaling $2.4 trillion over a 10-year span.
Like most things coming out of Washington, the bill was riddled with holes. It specifically identified only half the cuts and left the remaining $1.2 trillion to be determined by a so-called “Super Committee,” with its recommendations to be implemented by Jan. 1, 2013.
In other words, Republicans and the White House conspired to kick the can down the road, saddling a different group of politicians with the decisions that were surely vote losers. Republicans and White House folks dusted off their jeans and washed their hands of the really hard and dirty work, appointing a Super Committee that fell far short of its name.
Here is the hook left in the bill: If the Super Committee failed to reach an agreement, and that was a foregone conclusion, the Budget Control act was written so that it would go out of control, requiring across-the-board spending reductions to be shared by defense and non-defense programs alike.Wisely covering their ample posteriors, though, our politicians exempted Social Security, Medicaid, federal retirement, military pay, and the price tag for ongoing wars.
To no one’s surprise, the Super Committee, consisting of equal parts Republicans and Democrats, tripped, stumbled and fell. A last second deal over the fiscal cliff delayed sequestration to March 1. As part of the deal, some of the Bush-era tax cuts were allowed to expire, reducing the amount required for sequestration to about $1 trillion over nine years.
Ahh, that grand old Washington saying, “A trillion here, a trillion there and pretty soon you’re talking about serious money.”