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The impending sequestration is only good for bears
26 February 2013 | 9:40 | Source: Matt Hall, SBS
Welcome to what is now called “The Sequester”. Leave your spare change at the door.
It goes something like this: unless Congress can agree a new deal on how to fix America’s debt issues by March 1, pre-determined measures kick in for across-the-board budget cuts up to $1.2 trillion.
In an amazing piece of politics, Congress voted to introduce the sequester as a threat for both Republicans and Democrats to come up with an agreement on how to handle the country’s debt. In a completely predictable piece of politics, no agreement was reached.
It was a simple idea – make a deal by a deadline or a bunch of unpalatable cuts would automatically be triggered. Of course, this is Congress. Nothing is simple. The New Year Fiscal Cliff deal postponed what was inevitable. You can run from your problems but you can’t hide. We now face cuts no one likes but no one has the enthusiasm to fix. And so here comes a crisis that is entirely manufactured.
The roadblock is pretty much all about ideology. Republicans say there’s no way taxes can be raised. Rather than cut defence spending, they say, chop food stamps, health insurance and Medicaid, the government-funded health insurance for senior citizens and disadvantaged.
The President and Democrats want to split the difference between an “increase in revenue” (i.e., taxes) and cuts focusing on cutting deductions and tax credit loopholes open to the rich.
So what, exactly, faces the sequester cut? Public housing subsidies, educational programs, unemployment benefits, and military veteran services are on the list.
There are also cuts to other areas of government like the Pentagon and the Federal Bureau of Investigation where employees (yes, even agents) will take an enforced unpaid day off every two weeks. That cut will also apply to airport security screeners, air traffic controllers, and customs agents.
You can read the heavy-going 158-page report on what will be cut here. If you read the entire document it is entirely possible you’re the first and only person to do that.
So far, all of the cuts sound very bureaucratic and who cares if someone with a cushy government pen-pushing job has to do more work in less time and there’s only one U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in the Middle East, right?
Well, another way to look at how cuts will go deep is to look at what the National Parks Service faces. According to a memo obtained by the Associated Press, beaches on Cape Cod will be closed, Civil War battlefield Gettysburg will be forced to turn away one-fifth of the school kids that usually visit, and Yosemite Park, an iconic American tourist destination, will be overrun with bears because there will be fewer garbage collections.
So there’s some evidence that bears will be totally into sequestration. People? Not so much. And that probably sums up very well just how the logic of Congress currently works.