Government services, teaching positions, research projects and hundreds of thousands of jobs are about to be cut in another self-inflicted crisis in Washington – The Great Sequester – and what are the country’s leaders doing about it?
House Majority Leader John Boehner says it’s the Senate’s job to make it right. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he’s thinking about it, but gee, don’t rush him. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says it’s the president’s problem to solve. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says nothing on the matter, which might be a blessing by itself.
Sequestration is the end game (we hope!) of a series of financial calamities that have been going on since the summer of 2011. The sequester follows Debt Ceiling II, which followed Fiscal Cliff, which followed Debt Ceiling I in what is now 19 months of wasted opportunities for President Obama or some member of Congress to stand up and lead.
Not one of them has the guts to step forward.
This is particularly galling behavior by Obama. Senators were elected to lead their state. Representatives were elected to lead their districts. Obama is the only one elected to lead the whole country, and he is shriveling so fast he’ll be crawling at roach level by the end of the week.
He started the series of hand-wringing messes back in July 2011 when he told Republicans he would veto any attempt to get rid of automatic spending cuts as part of the Budget Control Act. He wanted “cuts across the board” to force Congress into submitting reasonable spending cuts to go along with all the tax hikes he was getting.
Best Congress Can Do Is Punt
They didn’t submit spending cuts. In fact, they did what Congress has become really, really good at the past few years: They punted the ball.
They punted in the summer of 2011 when Debt I started this mess; punted again when the Fiscal Cliff deadline hit last Dec. 31; punted a third time when Debt Ceiling Crisis II came up Jan. 31 and are in punt formation again as the March 1 deadline approaches.
Clearly, Congress doesn’t want the ball.
Amazingly, earlier this week McConnell and other Republicans offered Obama the ball and told him to write up the rules for the game as he went. They wanted to give him full responsibility for choosing exactly what programs would be cut and to what extent. They essentially laid down and asked him to run over them.
He couldn’t have asked to be in a stronger position to lead! He is serving his final term. He can do whatever he wants and never worry that he won’t be re-elected. Want to take out a huge chunk of Defense spending? Have at it! Want to whack spending on Homeland Security or education or first responders or any of the thousands of other domestic programs? Whack away!
He could have changed his title to Emperor Obama, and the Republicans couldn’t say a word because they were the ones willing to give him power over all the money.
The Guy is a Wimp
Instead, he seized up like some terror-stricken 6-year-old. He ran out on the campaign trail and blamed Congress for the coming losses of teachers’ jobs and childcare programs and military cuts and long lines at airport security and on and on and on.
The term my high school buddies use for this sort of timid behavior is wimp, but that is being way too polite. Obama is a coward.
He has been catered to at every single stage of this 19-month journey, and we are no closer to a solution. Congress raised the debt ceiling and agreed to mandatory spending cuts for Obama in 2011. They gave him $600 billion in tax hikes on Jan. 1. They extended the debt ceiling again on Jan. 31, and offered him the knife to make discretionary cuts instead of across-the-board cuts in time for Friday’s March 1 deadline.
The best response Obama could come up with is to ask for some more tax money (or “revenues,” as he wimpishly calls it) and more time. Trimming $85 billion from a $3.5 trillion budget means cutting about 2 percent, and that can’t be done overnight. Or in 19 months.
Try convincing anyone that there isn’t 2 percent of fat everywhere in the federal budget. Only a coward would run from that kind of opportunity.
Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.