Politics as usual has always been hard on the American people, but with the sequester, Washington has crossed the line this time.
All the sequester craziness has proven that our elected officials are not only inept, selfish, money-squandering bozos – they're also willing to actually inflict harm on the American people for political gain.
Virtually all of the problems created by the sequester, from the flight delays resulting from furloughed air traffic controllers to cancer clinics turning away Medicare patients could easily have been avoided.
But American citizens are suffering because Washington's warring factions – the Democrats and the Republicans – refuse to solve the nation's budget problems unless, like petulant toddlers, they can get their way.
A few Congressman – too few — have called out their colleagues.
"What we're showing is our incompetence, or our downright disdain for the American public," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, said on the Fox Business program Varney & Co.
How the Sequester Has Needlessly Hurt America
Political sniping over the federal budget is one thing, but much of the sequester – the brainchild of President Barack Obama and approved by members of both parties in Congress – was purposely designed to hurt the American public.
In other words, Washington concocted a law diametrically opposed to their stated mission.
Take the crisis over the nation's furloughed air traffic controllers.
As with all federal agencies affected by the sequester, the law prohibited the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from moving money around to avoid such disasters as forcing air traffic controllers to take days off.
Even more astounding is that according to a leaked internal FAA memo, the plan was to make the situation worse by ordering the controllers to take the same days off!
"How cynical, how un-American is that?" Coburn chided in a Senate floor speech.
And just to prove how avoidable the whole thing was, Congress "solved" that problem on Friday by granting the FAA the authority to transfer money from well-funded accounts to the one that pays the controllers' salaries. (President Obama has indicated he will sign it.)
While that fixes the problem of unnecessary flight delays at the nation's airports, it leaves dozens of similar sequestration problems unresolved. Even the FAA fix lasts only until Sept. 30.
Cancer clinics across the country are still turning away thousands of Medicare patients. Other people who work for the federal government are getting furloughed or are at risk of getting laid off. Aid to the poor has been cut back.
Meanwhile, at least one agency dear to the heart of the Obama administration, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – which is working on the implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act, or Obamacare – have not needed to cut workers' hours or pay.
"So what we have is a contrived situation to make it very painful on the American public rather than live within our means and make the common sense changes," Coburn said on Varney & Co. "I know stupidity and really crass cronyism when I see it, and the fact is this is having real impacts on people's lives when it doesn't need to."
Sequester Brings Out the Worst in Washington
In an effort to force the other side to cave on budget issues, both Republicans and Democrats – but mostly Democrats – have taken every opportunity to twist the sequester into a political bludgeon.
For example, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-MD, Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-CA, and other Democrats cited the Boston Marathon terror bombings as evidence that the sequester had undermined security.
The comments fit in with a Democratic theme started by the Obama administration warning of the consequences of sequestration in an attempt to strong-arm Republicans into agreeing to a budget deal that would include more tax increases.
Republicans accuse Democrats of having no true interest in spending cuts, and often repeat their ironclad determination to resist any attempt to raise taxes.
So the sequester – and all the pain that it brings — remains with us.
The tragedy of it all is that Washington could fix this problem if enough elected officials really wanted to.
The few who do are lone voices crying out in a wilderness political insanity.
"We have legislation that we have put forward that would provide flexibility across government so we could find savings, eliminate duplication and waste, make sure that we prioritize so that we still find savings and don't impact the public," Sen. John Hoeven, R-ND told Varney & Co.
Really – that doesn't seem so hard, does it?
Related Articles and News:
- Money Morning:
Sequestration Cuts Hit Cancer Patients While Billions Wasted
- Money Morning:
Wasteful Government Spending: Duplicate Programs Squander Billions
- Energy and Commerce Committee:
Air Traffic Controllers Furloughed, Obamacare Workers Still on the Job
- Fox Business:
Sen. Coburn: America Learned to Live With Less, Why Can't Feds? (video)
- Fox Business:
Sen. Hoeven: We Can Do Sequester Without Impacting Economy
- Associated Press:
Congress approves bill to end airport delays
About the Author
David Zeiler, Associate Editor for Money Morning at Money Map Press, has been a journalist for more than 35 years, including 18 spent at The Baltimore Sun. He has worked as a writer, editor, and page designer at different times in his career. He's interviewed a number of well-known personalities - ranging from punk rock icon Joey Ramone to Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak.
Over the course of his journalistic career, Dave has covered many diverse subjects. Since arriving at Money Morning in 2011, he has focused primarily on technology. He's an expert on both Apple and cryptocurrencies. He started writing about Apple for The Sun in the mid-1990s, and had an Apple blog on The Sun's web site from 2007-2009. Dave's been writing about Bitcoin since 2011 - long before most people had even heard of it. He even mined it for a short time.
Dave has a BA in English and Mass Communications from Loyola University Maryland.