The Empty House
Sequestration, the obscure but deadly poison pill agreed to by the President and Congress on August 1st 2011 in order to stave off the first ever default on our national debt. When the deal was reached I felt that it would be a tragedy for our county. I knew then in my heart based on the angry and often hateful tenor of the debate that I saw in Washington DC concerning the debt limit crisis that led to the act that it was something that would not be immediately repealed and do great damage to the country. I felt that it was much like the Missouri Compromise of which Thomas Jefferson said:
“but this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. it is hushed indeed for the moment. but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. a geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper.”
Of course I hoped, perhaps beyond hope that much of the posturing and demonstrations during the debt stand off by both sides were election ploys. Though I did not believe that either side would compromise I hoped that cooler heads on both sides would prevail and seek a long term compromise deal. I hoped but I did not believe. I wrote:
“The battle lines are still drawn and the language except for the utilitarian language that compromise was necessary to stave off a default has not changed an iota. The language of compromise does not sit well with the most vocal members of the Tea Party faction nor those on the hard Left. Many Tea Party leaders and members continue to argue that their leadership to push the government into default to achieve their goals.
The default may not happen now but the crisis is not past. No it will be with us for a long time with more division, more bitterness and more fuel being poured onto the flames of hatred that have consumed us. Much like the various crises and compromises on the road to the Civil War nothing substantial has changed.…
I can see it as if has already happened. The Unholy Trinity of politicians, pundits and preachers will step up their rhetoric inciting their followers to adopt even more uncompromising positions. The already fearful enmity will deepen and the center will disappear. Emotion in the form of hatred will drive the arguments that neither side will listen to even as the United States and the world economy worsens and the wars continue. Young Americans will give their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan even as their political leaders on both sides of the aisle seek ways to reduce the force and even the pay and benefits that they have earned after 10 years of unending war that the rest of the nation while seemingly grateful does not understand nor share.”
Unless something happens soon the terrible vision that I had will become a reality. Sequestration went into effect just before midnight. In the two preceding weeks Congress worked a total of three and a half days obviously intent on doing nothing. Despite the warnings of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, numerous military and business leaders including the US Chamber of Commerce and heads of social service and religious organizations as to the devastating consequences of sequestration nothing was done and now sequester is here.
However the divide was too deep and the hatred too much. I still hope and pray for resolution before the full effect is felt. I know many people that will feel the direct effects of this, especially in areas that are heavily military and which depend on the military for much of their economy. Virginia, Texas, Maryland and California will be particularly hard hit. Other states, especially poor southern states which are heavily dependent on Federal aid will also by punished with the irony that it is some of the political leaders that they elected that are pushing hardest for the cuts. People who think that they will not be effected will be surprised when they find the Federal services that they assumed will always be there cut in front of their eyes.
Unfortunately this is just one part of the drama that will play out in the next few weeks. I know that many people believe that the President and Congress will reach a deal and I hope that they are right, because I do not want to be right on this.
God help us.