August 20, 2017

Sequester: a trip down the rabbit hole to Wonderland [Contributor]

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Rhett Wilkinson is a senior at Utah State University. He is studying journalism and political science. The opinions expressed are his own.


 

The feds ought to follow the lead of a certain rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, who famously said “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!”

The first problem with this whole sequester mess is when President Obama and Congressional leaders have arranged to meet about the issue. The first sit-down? Scheduled for Friday—after sequestration already strikes earlier that day.

That being perhaps the finest example yet of a divided federal government, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

With the extreme political polarization existing in contemporary America, isn’t the national bureaucracy working exactly as the Founders intended—representative of their constituents?

Aside from the prophetic inevitability perhaps evident in that governmental design, a lack of astonishment perhaps primarily comes most, however, from the ‘we’ve seen this before’ category.

English: U.S. President is greeted by Speaker ...

English: U.S. President is greeted by Speaker of the House before delivering the . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Less than two months ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was speed-dialing Vice President Joe Biden about a deal on the fiscal cliff, after becoming exasperated trying to negotiate with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, perhaps Utah’s least-favorite prominent adopted son. And only several weeks ago was House Speaker John Boehner emphasizing the need for making no long-term increase in the debt limit until a long-term plan to deal with the nation’s fiscal crisis is in place, Reid responding by talking about “gimmicks” from the tea party in negotiations.

This time, McConnell may have consummated the embarrassment by testifying on the House floor much like the nation feels in their cry for help—alone, saying that Republicans “can’t do it alone.”

This sure feels abandoning: $1.2 trillion in cuts will be made this year. We will lose $492 billion from our defense capabilities, making some aspects of the U.S. military its’ weakest since the World War I era. It includes $40 million from Utah. The state’s governor, Gary Herbert, described the disagreement between sides as a “bad marriage,” with “not a lot of good communications going on.”

Certainly not, when nothing of the type may be substantial until after the automatic cuts occur.

The governor’s specification of a need for spending cuts couldn’t have been more right. In 2011, the federal government spent roughly $668 billion on 126 welfare programs. That includes an increase of more than $193 billion since the presidential incumbency took office—roughly two-and-a-half times greater than any increase over a similar time frame in U.S. history!

Yet, the poverty rate has still remained relatively constant since 1965, despite rising welfare spending. In fact, the only significant decline occurred in the 1990s, a time of state experimentation with tightening wel­fare eligibility. Since 2006, poverty rates have ris­en despite a massive increase in spending, yet only 2.6 percent of full-time workers are poor. The “working poor” are a small minor­ity of the poor population.

Even part-time work makes a significant difference. Only 15 percent of part-time workers are poor, com­pared with 24 percent of adults who do not work.

Young Americans for Liberty’s Adam Fowler opined that Republicans aren’t to blame, “despite what Obama may say.” And “not Obama, despite what Republicans may say,” he continued. “The people who vote for this stuff are the ones to blame. Yes, that means us.”

No, it’s not really on constituencies, if a slow and divided Congress is a product of exactly what the government the Framers sought to establish. Sixty-seven percent of those asked in a new Washington Post-ABC poll disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling federal spending—15 percent higher than Obama. Even more liberal Democrats (87 percent) approve of how Obama has handled federal spending generally, compared with 44 percent of self-identified Republicans about those in their party during the same time frame.

With the sequester taking place, the federal budget will actually still grow by $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years. So it’s fine if both sides stab each other in the ribs on Friday.

Given the effectiveness of welfare hearkening back to the last major progressive era in U.S. history, however, it’s not difficult to look in one direction towards those who have primarily advocated for such spending increases. Here’s hoping they receive the harder jab of the rhetorical sword, with a scar as a reminder that literal harm will be inflicted to some who may be paid for 22 days.

Public servants should abandon their tortoise-like negotiating pace (don’t self-described progressives pride themselves on being ahead of the curve?), and run faster than a hare to those hard-working individuals.

About Rhett Wilkinson

Rhett Wilkinson has interned for U.S. Congress, the State of Utah and Salt Lake media, including Utah Policy Daily. He earned a BS in Journalism and an Area Certificate in Public and Social Affairs.

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