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Morning Sun
  • OUR VIEW: A vocabulary lesson from the government

  • Those who’ve watched national politics have learned a lot of phrases in the last couple years. Everyone has become familiar with Washington jargon turned common phrase.

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  • Those who’ve watched national politics have learned a lot of phrases in the last couple years. Everyone has become familiar with Washington jargon turned common phrase.
    First came the debt ceiling. Congress and the President agreed to a deal to raise the debt ceiling and avoid default. The deal was to immediately cap certain spending measures, and then to create a committee to reduce the deficit by roughly another $1.2 trillion. To force the committee to work together, an “or else” was created — $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that neither Republicans nor Democrats want to see. Of course, the committee didn’t work together.
    Next came the fiscal cliff a couple months ago. Both the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts were set to go into place and the Bush era tax cuts were set expire at the same time. In order to avoid that, another deal was made — continue the tax cuts on everyone but those making more than $400,000, while pushing off the automatic cuts for a few months.
    And now we’re almost at the sequestration. That’s the fancy word for those automatic cuts, and it doesn’t appear there is as much movement toward deal-making as in past crises. The $1.2 trillion in cuts are over 10 years, and as of March 1, the government is looking at a cut of $85 billion for this year, according to reports.
    The first thing we want to note is that it doesn’t matter who proposed these cuts, because both sides agreed to them. If Person A says to go to one restaurant, and Person B agrees, then Person B can’t blame Person A if the food isn’t any good.
    Second, there are both local and major effects of these automatic spending cuts.
    Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said air traffic control towers at about 100 airports are likely to close if the automatic cuts go through.
    “We’re talking about places like Boca Raton, Fla.; Joplin, Mo.; Hilton Head, S.C.; and San Marcos, Texas,” LaHood said, as quoted by the Associated Press.
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expecting about $300 million in cuts. The Department of Defense expects that a “vast majority” of its 800,000 civilian workers would be furloughed one day of work per week for up to 22 weeks. The National Park Service expects furloughs, hours cut, and a reduction in services, the Associated Press reports.
    These automatic cuts were designed by Congress and the President to be so harsh that the two sides would have to work together. And instead, for more than a year and a half, the work has largely been to avoid these automatic cuts, but also to avoid actually dealing with the problem of the growing deficit.
    At the same time, there are a number of citizens who have been clamoring for a reduction in the size of government. Less government, they say, is better government.
    Page 2 of 2 - And there is something to that. There are ways the government could and should control its broader spending. But that’s not what these are. We like the idea of reducing the size of government, but when one puts these cuts into reality, it suddenly doesn’t seem like such a good idea.
    The education department would see a 9.1 percent cut once sequestration hits on Friday. That amounts to a $1.1 billion cut this year for special education services across the country.
    There could be 2,100 fewer food inspectors protecting us. The FBI may have to cut up to 1,000 jobs.
    Meals on Wheels would serve about 4 million fewer meals to seniors, and much, much more.
    About 70,000 students would no longer have access to Head Start and Early Head Start education.
    The WIC program, which supplies nutrition help for Women, Infants and Children, would have to cut roughly 600,000 people that need that safety net to provide food for their families.
    We’ve learned a lot of vocabulary in the last few years. Debt ceiling. Fiscal cliff. Sequestration.
    But we hope that Congress teaches us one more phrase — successful negotiations.
    For the Morning Sun

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