DAVID ROSMAN: Sequestration and bipartisan politics are the next big blizzard

Thursday, February 28, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:53 a.m. CST, Friday, March 1, 2013


The word has two meanings this week. The most obvious? Look out the window: cold, wet and very heavy. Tuesday brought clogged streets, broken trees, downed electric lines and no Internet.

I do enjoy the snow. Not driving in it when drifts are higher than the hood of the car, or when the slush is a foot deep, but…

Everything looks clean and perfect. Every sound is eliminated, absorbed by the water crystals accumulated on the neighborhood. When the sun does return, and it will, a cheer returns to my heart, and I want to go outside and build a snow person or two.

In fact, I will make two snowmen or snowwomen and, as an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, defy state and federal law and marry them.

Our farmers welcomed the moisture. My country-folk partner in life, Kathy, told me that snow releases water slower and carries nutrients better than rain. I believe her. Me? I am a big-city kid who believes that chocolate milk comes from chocolate cows. I do watch the Central Dairy commercials, you know.

The other version is not so pleasant: The snow we are getting from both sides of the aisle concerning “sequestration.” The White House and liberals are crying that the upcoming budget cuts will all but destroy American, and therefore world, economies. The GOP and super conservatives are yelling “Let it happen. It’s the president’s fault.”

It is certainly not the fault of Congress’s juvenile behavior. Tea Party groups are rebelling against any proposal made by the Democrats while attacking middle-of-the-road Republicans for not being “conservative enough,” blaming the president for not passing legislation (not really his job), and definitely not listening the majority of the American people.

The insurgency within the Grand Old Party, the demanding by the super-conservatives that everyone else must become more “conservative,” cannot be the cause. However, conservatism does not mean “No new taxes!” (Remember that fiasco by conservative George H. W. Bush?) Abraham Lincoln defined conservatism as the “…adherence to the old and tired, against the new and untried.” He was then talking about the Democrats.

In “30-Second Politics,” edited by Steven Taylor, Michael Bailey, associate professor of political science at Berry College in Georgia, defined conservatism as “a political and social philosophy that embraces traditional rules and institutions, holding that society moves forward best by looking backwards.” One question — whose traditions?

Liberal politicos are near extinct since Sen. Edward Kennedy’s death. The Democratic Party is now more “right-wing left-wingers” these days. Still, trying to get the “New Dems” to work with their GOP counterparts is as hard as the reverse. Do not look for cooperation soon.

What we do know about the sequestration is that federal and civilian jobs could be lost and eliminated, and some work hours could be reduced by about 20 percent. Contracts could be put on hold. Access to Medicaid, food stamps, early childhood education, and the like could be further limited, and much more. All affect economic growth.

One contentious point is the extreme right-wing wants to save only the military budget with their “come ahead back” mandate, maintaining Cold War “out spend the enemy” tactics. Our biggest threats, religious and political extremists, Iran, North Korea and others, are holding their own with a fraction of military spending. The Cold War has been over for 20 years and the outspend tactic no longer applies.

Sequestration is a constitutional question, something that both sides seem to have forgotten. It does not matter where the idea for sequestration originated, it was agreed to by both houses of Congress, and the buck must stop with them.

By next week we will know if we are moving backward, forward or once again kicking that silly can down some road (How I dislike that metaphor.) One thing is certain: On Monday we will be buried deeper in the snow from a blizzard of repetitive rhetoric.

Children, stop fighting or I am going to take my snowball and go home.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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Ellis Smith February 28, 2013 | 7:09 a.m.

See mine, atttached to Miller's opinion piece.

If one prefers a "marriage alternative" one need only move less than 200 miles north of Columbia. A choice! Adam can either marry Eve or Steve. :)

But it's colder and it snows more.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking February 28, 2013 | 8:23 a.m.

"Access to Medicaid, food stamps, early childhood education, and alike could be further limited, and much more."

Except they don't have to be. There's nothing that says, Headstart (for example) has to be cut. Department heads have broad discretion over how they make their cuts. Unfortunately, like any service or business, department heads (or CEO's) will posture and posit how a reduction in allocations or spending will "devastate" their entities, and try to make any cuts as painful as possible to the general public.

Just another resason why our deficit will not be closed unless we can't borrow anymore.


(Report Comment)
frank christian February 28, 2013 | 9:15 a.m.

" Department heads have broad discretion over how they make their cuts."

Republicans are calling for this approach. Obama and Democrats are advertising everywhere that this cannot be done. Cuts must be made across the board equally to every account. This gives D' more devastation for every buck of the miniscule cuts.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith February 28, 2013 | 10:30 a.m.

"We must tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect." - Harry Hopkins, New Deal member and hustler

Man, Iowa really knows how to grow 'em: Hoover, Hopkins and Wallace. At least Hoover is also known for the positive contributions he made before and after he was President, and Wallace made significant contributions to corn hybridization. (Ever hear of Pioneer Hybrid, now a division of DuPont?)

(Report Comment)
David Rosman February 28, 2013 | 5:22 p.m.

Ellis - Your comments are a great example of "Looking backwards to move forwards." Thank you.

In fact, the original sequestration law does not give the department heads or, for that matter, the President any leeway to decide which programs feel the effects of the budget ax. The original deal was simple - If you cannot get the budget straightened out by December, 2012, the ax drops and the one head of the Lernaean Hydra. We know it will not kill the problems, but will slow it down... A bit.

What did Congress do? Nothing but extend the problem until now, and it looks like they will only extend it again.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 28, 2013 | 5:46 p.m.

Congress wasn't the only party complicit in the sequestration process...

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 28, 2013 | 9:23 p.m.

"What did Congress do? Nothing but extend the problem until now, and it looks like they will only extend it again."

Republican House has passed two measures, sent to Democrat Senate. Still laying there. When necessary you include Reid and Democrats in your condemnations. Liberals, Liberals!

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 1, 2013 | 5:28 a.m.

David Rosman wrote:

"In fact, the original sequestration law does not give the department heads or, for that matter, the President any leeway to decide which programs feel the effects of the budget ax."

At the level of overall appropriations to departments, you are correct. In terms of how departments apportion those cuts within their departments, they have considerable flexibility. No one tells FAA they have to furlough hundreds of air traffic controllers. But this is a very visible and inconvenient way of doing it, so they do it this way. There's a whole bunch of fact check articles about this out there which are good to read for some non-partisan perspective.

A 2.5% cut will not cripple government unless those that actually implement the cuts within their departments cripples it. This is a different issue from whether the powers that be want across the board cuts evenly to each department or not. It's the perfectly natural tendency of agencies to justify their work.


(Report Comment)

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