I woke up Saturday morning, fearing the first day of sequestration, remembering that it rhymes with unpleasant things like castration. I thought I would check Facebook before I peeked outside to see if the sky was falling. Lots of people get up before I do so I was looking for an early weather report from some of my rancher friends.
First thing that popped up was Texas Farm Bureau’s Gene Hall who proudly proclaimed “The republic still stands. Burger King still served me a biscuit, my paper was on the drive and my Internet still works. A thing called a sequester did not destroy us after all.”
Now Gene and I stand on opposite sides of the political spectrum. I prefer Hardee’s biscuits. They are far superior to those leaden lumps doled out by Burger King and I can only hope he has to visit BK because the nearest Hardee’s is too far away. But I agree the sequester hasn’t destroyed the republic. Yet.
One of the interesting things left on the table was the Senate Democrats' $110 billion sequester replacement bill which proposed $3.5 billion in new farm program spending. What doomed it to extinction, of course, were a few lines that suggested $54 billion in new taxes on millionaires. No way Boehner, Cantor, et al would be able to accept that little nugget.
There was another catch. To get $3.5 billion in new farm spending, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) agreed to cut $27.5 billion in farm subsidies known as direct payments.
Stabenow said, “I support moving forward with eliminating direct payments. At the same time, I have written this and negotiated this to make sure we are providing disaster assistance to our farmers and ranchers which do need it for 2013.”
She also worked two excellent provisions into the bill. The first was tied to her “Bring Jobs Home Act” and it would have ended the practice of companies deducting relocation expenses when they move operations out of the United States. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, the idea of using tax money to help move American jobs overseas should make you cringe.
The Stabenow bill also closed some gaps by including disaster assistance for agriculture sectors left out of the "fiscal cliff" deal passed in early January and funded energy, conservation and specialty crop programs that were not part of the short-term farm bill extension.
All water under the dam, now. Despite Gene Hall’s good cheer, almost everyone thought the sky would not fall Saturday morning. Instead, the sequester would perform like a very slow moving blizzard, gridlocking massive amounts of our economy inch-by-painful inch over several months. As we all work hard to clear our financial streets, the detritus would have to be piled up on the sidewalks and it would stay there for months – maybe years – afterwards.