This is what democracy really looks like: Sequester impact on Washington State

By • on February 25, 2013 5:35 pm

The national Republican Party’s fanatic, nihilist approach to cutting government spending – and refusing to pay for it when such spending benefits anyone but themselves and their 0.0001 % buddies – is set to result Friday in across-the-board federal spending cuts that are as random and stupid as they are wildly destructive.

The idiotic media firestorm of “balanced” coverage of the fingerpointing of “who is to blame” will dominate media coverage this week – even though no sane neutral observer has any questions about how we got here. Sequestration happened first because the House GOP, in 2011, held routine debt ceiling legislative hostage, threatening to collapse the global economy unless they got their way. Economic collapse was narrowly avoided by setting up a “supercommittee” to recommend a way to reduce the federal deficit, with sequestration the “so bad it’s unthinkable they’d let it happen” option to make sure that committee actually came up with a plan. Which it didn’t, because its Republican members refused to compromise – at all – on their insistence that no new revenue could be raised. (Democrats, at each of these stages, offered repeatedly to cave and give the GOP most, but not all, of what it wanted. Even that has been repeatedly rejected.)

Faced with the unthinkable, now Congress has been trying to negotiate a new bill to forestall the March 1 deadline. And that has failed because…wait for it….wait for it…House GOP members refuse to compromise on any of their budget demands (see a pattern here?). Even though they only control one of the three institutions involved (White House, Senate, House) and got a minority of votes in all three in an election held only three months ago that revolved quite clearly around these topics. There’s really no question at all – none – about who’s responsible. There’s also zero ambiguity about whether a majority of Americans support the GOP approach. We don’t.

What media oxygen isn’t used up this week by the blame punditry will focus, with good reason, on sequestration’s likely terrible effect on the economy. After all, even though Republicans don’t seem to think so, eliminating government jobs pretty much by definition eliminates jobs. In a still-struggling economy whose tepid unemployment numbers mask a terrifyingly large number of people who are underemployed or have stopped looking – especially among young and non-white workers – throwing millions more people out of work is going to hurt, greatly, and that’s only one of the many bad impacts this completely unnecessary crisis will have.

Sequestration is a direct result of a dysfunctional government and a major political party now controlled by people who are so detached from reality they are clinically insane. But to appreciate how destructive the GOP’s tantrums have become, it’s helpful to attach some real numbers to the real programs being randomly cut. The White House today released reports on sequestration’s impact to each of the 50 states. A six-page PDF of its summary of Washington State is here. (Swap out other state names in the URL of the linked document to find summaries for any other states.)

It’s grim reading. Remember, this isn’t a temporary thing, like a government shutdown (also being threatened by our Incontinent Old Party). Unless Congress somehow restores them – good luck with that so long as Republican’s newly gerrymandered-safe congressional seats aren’t somehow reclaimed – the cuts due to take effect this Friday are permanent. A majority of national parks will be closed permanently. FBI agents and food safety inspectors and air traffic controllers will be laid off permanently. The numbers in the linked report – the number of abused women unable to seek shelter, the number of hungry kids not fed, the number of crumbling bridges not rebuilt – are in 2013 alone. Add a similar number of hungry kids, battered women, or decayed infrastructure projects all over again in 2014. And in 2015. And every year after that until Republicans either rejoin the fact-based universe or go the way of the Whigs.

And remember, the minority Republican control of the state senate is, for the first time, bringing exactly the same mentality to this year’s annual haggling in Olympia over closing the budget shortfall. This societal vandalism is happening across the country at every governmental level, from US Congress to local cemetery district, where Republicans have enough power to at least cause gridlock. In one important way, sequestration is essential and long-overdue – it focuses on one specific time and place the usually surreptitious Republican goal of “starving the beast” – “the beast” being GOP code for “any government program that might ever help anyone who’s not already enormously wealthy.”

The big cataclysm happening on Friday is echoed in smaller cataclysms that have been going on thousands of times a day, in places large and small across the US, for decades now. This is what the modern GOP is about: harnessing hatred and ignorance and fear and bigotry to help effect a massive theft of what little wealth isn’t ready controlled by the extremely wealthy in our country. This is what American democracy really looks like.


By Pete Renner on March 18th, 2013 at 4:57 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more. I can not see where the GOP can claim they are a friend of the working stiff when they serve only the wealthiest and yet there is no ground swell to take them out of office. Maybe the last election was the start.

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