Editorial: 'Sequestration' shows lack of governing in Washington
First they gave us the 'fiscal cliff," and now they're bringing us "sequestration."
What will Congress and the administration of President Barack Obama give us next? If recent history holds true, it won't be anything that hints at progress in handling the nation's budgetary problems. After all, Democrats and Republicans are too busy spouting their respective party lines to get down to work and set a reasonable course for the future -- one that might let businesses and individuals know what to expect and plan accordingly.
Sequestration, as it's used currently in Washington, refers to $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts that will automatically take effect Friday unless Congress and the Obama administration reach some sort of compromise. These cuts were set in motion in 2011 as the result of a deal associated with raising the federal debt ceiling to avoid yet another crisis of Congress' making.
Should we expect compromise now? Don't bet on it.
Obama administration officials have spelled out in great detail the impact they say the budget cuts will have. For example, the air traffic control tower at Huntington's Tri-State Airport has appeared on a list of smaller airports' towers that could be closed, thus at the least likely leading to delays in commercial flights locally. The airport director, when first hearing about the possibility, said the closure could go so far as essentially shutting down most of the airport's operations. On Monday, however, he said the impact would likely be far less drastic but would require adjustments.
The White House also said the cuts in West Virginia would lead to furloughed or lost jobs totaling more than 2,100 and reductions in funding for schools, Head Start, college aid, public health initiatives and job search assistance.
The White House and Democrats, of course, are no doubt spelling out the direst of consequences from the cuts, as they try to rally the public to their side. Republicans counter that sequestration was the president's idea in the first place and that he, too, should be willing to compromise.
Meanwhile, as the Friday deadline approaches, neither side is making much of an effort to find a middle ground -- and to govern. Yet, isn't that what our elected officials are supposed to do -- to govern, rather than continually striving to push their respective ideological agendas?
Using an "across-the-board" mechanism for making budget cuts is not governing. It's basically stepping away from a responsibility to make thoughtful decisions about where the country's greatest needs are, focusing resources on those and reducing resources in other areas that will do the least harm to individuals and the nation as a whole. Yes, coming up with solutions may require raising some taxes. It also likely means adjustments to entitlement programs.
But essentially, both sides in this budget battle are shirking their responsibilities to act in responsible ways.
As many have said, it's time for both Republicans and Democrats to start acting like adults. We can only hope they finally get the message. Their present behavior is setting a bad example for other Americans and is hurting the nation.
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