2/27/2013 3:00 AM ET|
Why the sequester debate bores us
Despite Washington’s efforts to humanize the impact, the pending budget cuts remain abstractions to most Americans.
President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner won't admit it publicly, but the dysfunctional duo have bungled their handling of the $85 billion worth of across-the-board spending reductions slated to begin Friday.
It's not just that the cuts are occurring, even though the plan was to use the severity of these reductions -- especially on defense -- to force through a compromise managing the budget deficit. Instead, it's that as Obama and GOP lawmakers keep sounding the alarm, the American people keep pushing the snooze button. In politics, failure to engage the public is the essence of failure itself.
Only about a quarter of the country has heard "a lot" about the looming sequestration cuts, according to a survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center and USA Today. More claimed to know "nothing at all." The website Buzzfeed published a story Monday showing that readers are ignoring this latest crisis, using its own traffic as proof.
"How is anyone supposed to make an assessment about the practical impact that it will have in their lives?" asked Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, the national organization for health care consumers. "I'm not sure it's reached a level of understanding that results in consternation. I think people hear there's a big controversy in Washington, but I don't think they understand what it's about."
This budget crisis du jour -- the latest in a long chain -- should shock no one. It was the result of a bipartisan committee of lawmakers being unable to agree to more than $1.2 trillion in deficit savings way back in November 2011. These automatic reductions that are split evenly between the Defense Department and domestic programs have been on the public radar for about 15 months.
No doubt part of the problem is use of the technocratic term "sequester," a mouthful that most people associate with the isolated tedium of jury duty. Also, no one warns of an oncoming recession.
But the other thing is that, despite efforts to humanize the effects, the cuts remain abstractions. The appearance of first-responders behind Obama as he speaks or the White House-issued figures about the impact on each state have yet to connect emotionally with the public.
"It points to something I think people in Washington are very often oblivious to," said Ross Baker, a Rutgers University political science professor. "And that is, on a day-to-day basis, most Americans are not affected by what the federal government does. Unless you are a federal employee, or a recipient of Medicare or Social Security or Veterans benefits, all of which are untouched by the sequester, your life is not going to be greatly troubled."
Somehow, political leaders have been able to bore voters with a controversy that touches on three of the issues that they profess to care about the most: growing the economy, job creation and reducing government debt. Both Obama and Boehner gave reasons Monday to continue yawning.
Each called on other side to hammer out a compromise with bland political talking points that have been used and abused for the past two years. They usually depend on vague adjectives to describe complex policies -- "balanced" (Obama's favorite), "responsible" (Boehner's standard), and "smart" (a term used by both to suggest their position is superior).
All told, it's a simple, long-standing dispute over whether taxes should be used for reducing future budget deficits. Obama seeks to raise them again, after securing a rate hike earlier this year in the fiscal cliff deal that should put an additional $600 billion into the government's coffers over the next decade. Republicans oppose any more revenues, saying that any fix should come solely from domestic spending reductions and entitlement reform.
Their unsurprising message is that it's time for the other side to stop caring about politics and get serious about policy.
"This town has to get past its obsession with focusing on the next election instead of the next generation," Obama told the state governors meeting at the White House in televised remarks. "At some point, we've got to do some governing."
Boehner and the House Republican leadership blasted the president for his plan to speak about the sequester at a shipyard in Newport News, Va., on Tuesday.
"You know, the president proposed this sequester, yet he's far more interested in holding campaign rallies than in urging his Senate -- the Democrats -- to actually pass a plan," Boehner said.
More from The Fiscal Times:
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The world largest Navy, U.S. Navy. The Worlds second largest Navy U.S. Army.
A American Merchant Fleet that could not support the Coast Guard.
As for Obama, A free trade agreement with a Country that has 40,000 U.S. Troops Subsidizing their defense. I will say it again Trade deficit and budget deficit go hand in hand.
for doing nothing when he has done nothing himself. He is the one who started the sequester idea but then blames someone else. He will even blame his own party rather than accept his responsibility or irresponsibility. It is like Mrs Clinton said a few weeks ago, Obama does not know how to govern. I am ashamed I voted for him.
We are tired of a dysfunctional government (that includes President Obama) not doing its job. We are bored with the whole thing. We wish the government would all collapse, and just go away.
The sequester will result in cuts all areas of government (if Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are so important then you would expect the government would protect the old, the sick, and the infirm instead of using them as hostages (boring)), and the baby-killers and the war-mongerers, and the 4-star generals and their prostitutes (all West Point grads), over at the Military Industrial Complex.
Most Americans know when they are being held hostage and being extorted. To all you fools in government -- don't you know America doesn't negotiate with known terrrorists? Bring on your little sequestration.
REPUBLICAN 1: You`re the reason the Republicans are on the losing side.Keep up
the blame game and the hate.Most Americans can see through your bitterness
and lack of solutions.
the federal governement will spend more money in 2013 than it did in 2012..... the federal government will spend more money in 2014 than it did in 2013... and so on and so on... there are no cuts..... a CUT is less... there is not nor ever will be less
only in washington is spending increases of 8-10% considered a cut.
It's not that the Sequester is so boring, rather it's just that the discussion it engenders is so stupid. The overwhelming majority of economists agree that the main issue with the debt is the big 3 (plus the interest payments, for which there is a little grace period at least). Fix the structural problems while there is still time! Yet all we hear from politicians is some Tea Party nonsense about cutting out 4 cents from every dollar out of discretionary spending.
This is like someone living in more house than he can afford and an ARM with the interest reset looming on the horizon. His brilliant solution is then going out and switching from rice and beans to dog food, believing that real financial progess has been made...
'Tis true, 'tis true. "We, the People" really do have little, if any, idea, let alone real understanding, of what "sequestration" means and may do - TO US. Yes, "sequestration" is a "technocratic word" - one which really does NOT hit on any emotional channel or button in American popular culture, thinking, speech. So, YES, this IS a huge failure.... A failure of the public to appreciate exactly how their elected "officials" have failed them and indeed "f''ed" them.
In part, it is about our collectively dumbing-down. I have teenagers - they have NO comprehension of the language being used, and very very little ability to recognise, let alone "internalize and digest and consider" much of what will happen.... And I'm a FED! A part- or bit-player in acting out the "applied end" of this fiasco! And if I cannot effectively impress upon my own kids the real problems which will well up from this - problems like standing gov't programs and projects crashed, huge amounts of past money and effort about to go to waste, huge and diverse impacts on what many people think are "small things" (access to national parks, access to gov't offices for information and services, loss of opportunities to OTHERS, etc.), lost jobs and earnings for others... how would anyone expect that these impacts will be made real and meaningful to "John Q Public"?
In part it's that old problem of "huh? THAT doesn't impact ME. Why should I care?" A common human condition and an easy dodge to escape knowing about things which are discomforting.
In part, it's the numbing recognition that things may actually be going "south". A notion which almost everybody hopes is not true. It's a big case of denial. "Yeah, that's blood in my stool and I feel these aches in my guts.... but I'm really OK. Let's go to the movies!"
There is even the matter of many having already been "burned" by the recession, lost jobs and wages, down-sizing, tax-increases, foreclosures and bankruptcies, growing concern for their personal future, anticipated darker days ahead.... and looking out the window and seeing other folks glibly carrying on - the Oscars, glitz and glam, others buying new, more-costly cars, etc. etc.... seeing that their real pain is NOT shared by many others. This is the ANGER component. Seen in these posts where folks say stuff like "Let it happen! We need to start saving somewhere!" "I've already been burned. YOUR turn, now!".
A sad and even bad attitude, but understandable from human perspectives. I'm quite sure that all federal and most state and other public employees (ah, yes, sequestration directly impacts feds, and will flow down quickly to the state gov'ts, who will get less of their big bucks from the feds...) can see the evil about to happen - and every private citizen - that's a LOT, folks - who gets some dollars from gov't by selling gov stuff, serving contracts and collecting grants, will have little doubt that stuff will get worse and soon. It's the rest of the numbies who dream that S**t happens only to the OTHER GUY and I'm all OK!
We'll soon find out whether this-all is merely a scare-tactic or maybe has more substance. But then most folks don't get to read the e-mails sent out to the public work force by folks like the Secretary of Defense, of Interior, of Agriculture, of Commerce, etc. - telling their staff and workers to brace for impact and hang in there. And do the best you can.
THEY JUST KEEP MAKING UP NEW STUFF SO ALL YOU MORONS WILL JUST GO ALONG LIKE THE LEMMINGS YOU ARE, BLOW THEIR **** S OUT NOW, THEY ARE ALL A BUNCH OF FLAKES
If 3 % cut in spending can blowup whole economy, we are already in trouble and this thing does not matter. Little increase in interest rate can blow that big a whole and no one one do anything. Bernanke is keeping interest artificially low and punmping money in the economy much more that 85 Billion a year with no real impact on jobs.
If President cannot manage it is no surprise. May be he cannot at 7 + 6 or If A=7 and B=6 . what will be A+B will equal to. And so do the most Americans.
We are hearing a lot of scare tactics leading up to the potential sequestration this week. Considering the fact that the sequestration only represents appr. 10% of the spending cuts that will be required to bring us to a balanced budget, it is really nothing more than a small step in the right direction. I don't expect the sky to fall.
However, when and if services are reduced due to a reduction in funding, or if federal workers are furloughed, while at the same time, Americans observe that their tax dollars are still flowing out of the country in the form of foreign aid, or to provide military support for other countries, I believe that American citizens are going to be furious, and justifiably so. This will shine a light on the federal government's spending priorities, and I fear that things could get very ugly...............................
(Think about NYC sanitation snow plows during the December 2010 blizzard. There was a labor beef at that time. Screw the public.)
Years later when our Long Island village voted down school budgets (twice in 33 years), guess what the school district did...cut bus service to screw the Parents until we gave in. Inconvenience a couple of school mothers and you can win.
Taxpayers, draw the line, fight these people. These people are all for themselves.
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