TeachaCari explains Sequestration to her former students:
Put your seatbelts on, this is gonna be FUN!
“Teachacari, what IS Sequestration?”
It is a really dumb name given to an action that SHOULD have been called “We Don’t Want to Govern so We’re Gonna Fuck Things up More.” It is what is called in political science terms a “poison pill” – something destined to not be enacted because it’s so bad. The idea was concocted in 2011 when Congress didn’t want to raise the debt limit, in order to keep a stalemate from happening again, they put into place the worst possible of WORST scenarios that would kick in if they didn’t get their job done and make a budget by March 1, 2013. This would be an across-the-board cut that would hit the most painful parts of the operating budget of the US government. It would be like trying to motivate yourself to get your essay written by midnight or else your roommate would be obligated to start chopping your fingers off one by one. Obviously, they would NEEEVVVVEEERRRR let that worse, possibly worst, thing happen, so it’s all good!” Tomorrow, the worst possible thing happens.
2% of the AVAILABLE federal budget. There are parts of the federal budget that are separately protected, and where MOST of the federal budget lies: social security, medicare, etc. Including Congress. Congress’ pay is protected in the actual Constitution. So solving this whole problem by kicking them the fuck out and using their salaries (which is all our shared fantasy, and we know it) to balance the budget isn’t actually an option. So when you take away all the parts of the budget that can’t be messed with, you’re left with what is called “discretionary spending” — which is the leftover part that actually runs the government and the country (remember this, from your fabulously insightful high school government class?). So it’s actually closer to over 10% of the discretionary budget that will get cut — and the departments have no say in HOW to cut it — they actually have to chop the same percentage out of all parts of their budgets – which will hurt like hell.
That may be true, however: making a smaller government by hacksawing off vital functioning parts of it, instead of making it more EFFICIENT with thoughtful cuts that take into account the long term needs of the country, is sort of like saying it’s easier to deal with that wound on your forearm by just chopping your arm off at the elbow. Your arm will be smaller, so less hassle to deal with and less spaces to get a wound next time!
That will be fun for you. If the cuts take full affect, which it will likely take about 3-6 weeks for that to happen, here are a few things that will happen:
The FDA will have to cancel thousands of meat inspections. This means meat processing stops in some plants. This means less distribution and availability of meat. Prices skyrocket and there are shortages. But, I guess you could just eat less meat. And less everything, since all food production prices will eventually be affected.
The FAA will have to limit airport tower time. This will mean furloughing workers and flight delays and cancellations across the country, which will disrupt travel, business and other cascading schedules. But, I guess you could just plan not to be affected by that… by not going anywhere.
Tens of thousands of federal workers will lose up to 20% of their salaries until the end of the fiscal year (September ) by having to take non-paid furlough days. This will mean they may not make their rent or mortgage payments, and they certainly won’t be buying consumer goods. This means if you work in retail or service industries, YOUR job may be affected because your employer won’t be making the same revenue, especially in communities with a high number of civilian government workers. But, maybe you can just try to ignore that too because, fuck them.
Thousands of teachers (approx 30,000) could be laid off for next school year because federal assistance to state education budgets will stop. In addition, thousands more aides and money that goes to help students with disabilities will end. Head Start will stop for about 70,000 kids. And food aid to women and children (WIC) will end for thousands more. But who cares, you’re not in school anymore. You got your K-12 education already, and you’re not on WIC, so let them fend for themselves!
In the end, you can probably survive and still not give a shit about what happens to those people or the economy. Unless you buy into the idea that we’re all in this together and that the general welfare of the country will eventually be something that helps or hinders you, depending on how healthy it is. Those are just a few examples of the cascading effect of what will happen in the weeks following Sequestration. There may not be a sudden scream of agony from the economy because it won’t all happen at once. But in the next few months, if nothing is done to stop it, not only is the government facing ANOTHER one of its self-imposed “fiscal cliff” and debt limit standoffs, but the reverberating effects of THIS self-imposed fiasco will be taking full foothold in the economy and every day people’s lives.
My political philosophy answer: As James Madison warned us over 200 years ago, the reason you need a balancing, self-accountable government was to avoid the splits and conflict that would inevitably come from the formation of factions amongst the diverse regions of the country. In order to maintain that balanced self-accountability in a central government, you must depend upon the civic virtue of the country’s citizens who exercise what deTocqueville later called “enlightened self interest” to elect representatives who will seek to find that balance and govern in the interest of the general welfare of all the people while maintaining their individual rights. Not such an easy task. And one made even harder when you make only short term decisions and take no account of the future. Our civic virtue is in badly need of repair.
My history answer: There has never been some magical, halcyon era when we didn’t have corruption in our national government, or where all sides got along fabulously and sang show tunes together in the lunch cafeteria. There have ALWAYS been corporate-backed legislators and, since Andrew Jackson, there have always been industry-based business people in charge of executive departments. It doesn’t matter what party the president or legislature is. So we are not dealing with something that cannot be overcome when it comes to the various individual gripes we have with this government. Those things have been successfully and progressively dealt with before and we have history to prove that it can be done. But, the thing is, we have NEVER had a body in Congress that makes up a significant amount of the majority in the House and a debilitating minority in the Senate who have the goal to ACTUALLY DESTROY GOVERNMENT. These people ran campaigns on promises to bring government to a standstill. To stop the work of a representative democracy, all in the name of bringing a federal government they disapproved of to its knees. And here’s the clincher: PEOPLE ELECTED THEM.
My teachery answer: You can be cynical and decide you just don’t want the government anymore because it’s too corrupt for you and nothing will fix it. It’s been on a path to this sort of thing for years now, so let it die. If that’s the case, then tomorrow will be a nice way for you to toast that inevitability. If you’d rather NOT have things go down that way, then GET OFF YOUR ASS AND CALL YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS AND SENATOR and let them know that they may not have to take a furlough day this year because of Sequestration like thousands of their constituents will, but you know a damned good way of furloughing them forever in 2014.