Beware The 1st Of March

by Curt Kovener    

Sequestration (rhymes with ‘we castration’) is the congressionally polite word for hacking and slashing government spending because our elected leaders(?) refuse to cooperate to be fiscally responsible.

And the current government crisis du jour has a deadline of this Friday, March 1.

According to budget experts, to help cut $1.2 trillion (I am not sure just how many zeros and commas that may have) civilian employees of the military and other non-essential government workers would be furloughed one day a week for up to the next 22 weeks. Said another way, some government workers would get a 4-day work week through July 31.

Said that way, I am envious. I want to sequester myself.

Included in the mandatory cuts are expenses the members of Congress use to hire and maintain their staffs.

While congressional staffers face a furlough, members of congress do not. (Of course, they could be and on a permanent basis if voters take the proper action in 2014. But those in congress are banking on voters having short term memory.)

Members of Congress, those forward thinking, flag waving, Bible thumping, fiscal patriots, made sure their pay can’t be cut while telling the rest of us how spend crazy we expect government to be.

So why are the bosses in Congress not suffering with the staff, at least not until later this spring?

The 27th Amendment to the Constitution forbids Congress from changing its own pay during a current term of Congress. The sequester ‘poison pill’ in the 2011 Budget Control Act was scheduled to go into effect on January 2, 2013, the last day of the prior Congress.

Congressional pay is just one of many programs that will be exempt from cuts. According to the Congressional Research Service, exempt programs include Social Security and Medicaid; refundable tax credits to individuals; and low-income programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Supplemental Security Income. (Hmmm…that’s pretty much all of the things the Tea Party wants to slash.)

Notice those unimportant programs such as USDA food inspections would go by the wayside. Does anyone remember the meat, peanutbutter, and spinach, cantalope and other vegetable recalls due to salmonella, e-coli and botulism? Without those unneeded government food inspectors, there’ll be no re-calls and our food will be free to come direct to us as the producer or packer chooses…whether it is fit to eat or not.

If the sequestration goes through we all might be reminded of the need for government in a very personal way as we worship at the porcelain throne in the bathroom.

Despite those needed(?) cuts for us, somehow Congress found a way to delay its own pay cut, possibly until January 2015, by agreeing to put its pay in escrow on April 16, 2013, as part of the fiscal cliff deal.

So while congressional action, inaction and chronic bickering continues to add instability and angst to the American economic recovery, we should all sleep well knowing our congressional representatives are still being adequately compensated for their lack of work.

And my Momma wonders why I have such a cynical outlook. But if there is a just God, maybe some of that uninspected food will get served in the Capitol dining room.