“The sequester” contained in the Budget Control Act of 2011 was enacted by Congress and signed by President Obama in August of that year with all believing that the spending cuts authorized in the legislation would never be allowed to take place. In other words, a law was passed expecting that its provisions would not be employed. If this seems like a bizarre concept, it’s because it is. But this is the way our government tends to work.
Because agreement between the Republicans and Democrats on how to cut the budget deficits could not be reached in 2011, they kicked the can down the road with curbs on spending in the future that were thought to be so onerous, the two parties would be able to compromise and enact a different bill. However, it now appears that this was a serious miscalculation by those who created the sequester. Even though there are many painful aspects to the law that will come into effect on March 1, enough Republican members of Congress are willing to let it happen rather than compromise to find different spending cuts and new sources of revenue. So who are the winners and losers if the sequester is not overridden.
The big losers will be America’s citizens, industries, and economy. The defense industry will be particularly punished as the Pentagon’s budget will be lowered. With layoffs in the defense industry and the reduction of the government work force, unemployment is expected to rise. Consumer oriented businesses, such as restaurants, clothing stores, automobile companies, and so forth, will also be hit, with sales going down and workers laid off. Airlines will take big losses as well with air traffic controllers furloughed or fired and lights canceled. Estimates have the nation’s GDP declining by 0.5 to 1 percent this year, and the same or more the following year.
The Republican Party can be considered both losers and winners. The majority of Americans blame the Republican members of Congress unwillingness to compromise as being responsible for the sequester, so the Republicans lose politically over all. However, the far right and Tea Party members of Congress who are satisfied with the sequester can be considered winners. They can show voters in their gerrymandered “safe districts” that they voted to cut federal spending and make government smaller and they don’t care about the rest of the electorate. The defense hawks in the GOP can be considered big losers. In fact, the belief that they would never allow the Pentagon budget to be cut was one of the main reasons the sequester was enacted. New weapons systems will be delayed or terminated and the number of military and civilian personnel will be decreased.
Republican governors have been pushing members of their party in Congress to do something to avert the sequester, because the states will be big losers, with state budgets devastated and further layoffs of state employees being necessary. This means that teachers, policemen, firemen and other state employees will all be losers. Of course, children will suffer the most under this scenario.
From a political standpoint, the Democrats might be considered winners if the sequester goes through, since the public sees it as the fault of the Republicans. However, if unemployment subsequently goes up and the economy falters, the president is usually blamed for these occurrences no matter what the reasons are. So this may hurt the Democrats in 2014 Senatorial
elections and the presidential election of 2016.
The sequester was a strange idea in the first place for which both parties must share the blame. None of the politicians wanted a vicious fight during the election year of 2012, so they put it off until after the election. Now the chickens have come home to roost and we will all be losers for the idiotic machinations of our politicians and their unwillingness to compromise.
A VietNam vet and a Columbia history major who became a medical doctor, Bob Levine has watched the evolution of American politics over the past 40 years with increasing alarm. He knows he’s not alone. Partisan grid-lock, massive cash contributions and even more massive expenditures on lobbyists have undermined real democracy, and there is more than just a whiff of corruption emanating from Washington. If the nation is to overcome lockstep partisanship, restore growth to the economy and bring its debt under control, Levine argues that it will require a strong centrist third party to bring about the necessary reforms. Levine’s previous book, Shock Therapy For the American Health Care System took a realist approach to health care from a physician’s informed point of view; Resurrecting Democracy takes a similar pragmatic approach, putting aside ideology and taking a hard look at facts on the ground. In his latest book, Levine shines a light that cuts through the miasma of party propaganda and reactionary thinking, and reveals a new path for American politics. This post is cross posted from his blog.