Sequester: America is Getting Played…Again!

Rashad Muhammad, Staff Writer

Even if Wes Craven had been involved, the “Nightmare on Wall Street” of 2008 could not have been better scripted.  As the country’s CEOs were running in the streets, proclaiming calamity, wailing, gnashing their teeth and wringing their hands over the bets they had taken (and lost), the citizens of Main Street, who had fallen victim to these firms’  “get rich quick” promises, were losing jobs, homes and their dignity.


“Capitalism has failed!”


Somewhere Karl Marx sits agrin with an “I told you so” look on his face.


A bit of hyperbole, perhaps, but during the fiscal crisis, shock waves of socioeconomic and financial decline were universally felt.


While most of us suffered, firms, like Goldman Sachs, profited from this catastrophe. Even though they bet against the subprime mortgages, and profited heavily from those placed bets, they still received almost $13 billion of public funds from AIG (American International Group) during the bailout. Although this is an enormous sum, it was only a fraction of the $700 billion in taxpayer funds allocated to stabilize the broken financial system.


Taxpaying dollars played hero by saving both foreign and domestic banks and companies who made bad business decisions. Money that should’ve been used for education, medical care, and military defense was used to rescue corporations who played with the financial system like a game of Monopoly. While they were busy amusing themselves, we were busy paying for their expensive tastes.


To many, the morning of March 1 has evoked memories similar to when news broke of the housing disaster, a nightmare. The only difference is that this time, the dreaded sequester will play the role of Freddy Krueger.


Most Americans are probably unsure of what this dreaded “sequester” really means. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the ‘sequester’ refers to the $85 billion in spending cuts “poised to hit nearly every function of government and affect virtually all Americans.”


Originally, the sequester was proposed, as part of the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, as an incentive for Congress to avert the automatic $1.2 trillion reduction in governmental spending by January 1. Due to some compromise and $24 billion found in reductions, lawmakers delayed the proposed sequester until March 1.


The Christian Science Monitor stated that “the sequester would spread out about $109 billion in cuts per year, every year, for 10 years.” Since $24 billion in reductions have already been decided, $85 billion is left.


Almost every facet of government is set to be cut. This includes, but is not limited to, education, social services, social security, the National Institutes of Health, reductions in payments to Medicare providers, and the most imperative aspect of our protection, the military.


According to the original sequester, this will continue for at least ten years unless our lawmakers can come to an agreement.


It seemed so easy and simple to rescue the global elite five years ago. Why does it seem so difficult to protect those who can’t financially protect themselves?


People like, famed journalist Bob Woodward and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), have claimed that the White House is responsible for the sequester. Others proclaim that the Republicans voted blithely for this ill-advised measure.


Who did it? Who’s really to blame? The answer is, who the hell cares? The fact is the upcoming cuts are coming, and they are approaching quickly.


Kids in middle school are going to ask why their favorite teacher is absent. Passengers are going to question the security of our airlines once they notice thousands of TSA agents are missing. What about our border patrol? What about the ill and physically impaired? Who cares for those people? Do our elected officials care for anyone, or is this just another game to them?


Frivolous bickering and name-calling echo in the hallways of Capitol Hill while thousands are already feeling the effects of the pending furloughs.


For decades the U.S. government has attempted to create many proposals, similar to the BCA, in order to derail an increase in the national deficit. On the surface, this seems like smart business.  But cataclysmic decision making, like that seen during mortgage crisis, have cost our country hundreds of billions of dollars and those fiscal faux pas have created the need for more budget-control – legislation like the sequester.


Why do we, the people, have to pay such a hefty price because irresponsible firms miscalculated? If you go to Monte Carlo, bet everything on black, and then lose, can you ask the casino owner to bail you out? I doubt it. He’ll probably look at you the same way Romney looks at poor people, with derision and repulsion.


The result of this gamble should’ve concluded with the casino saying, “You lost, game over,” but the gamblers replied, “No, we want a do over!”


Congress gave them their quintessential “do-over” in the form of a bailout. They won their business battle, but we lost the country’s subsequent budget war.


Nothing has really changed since the financial crises of 2008. Focus has shifted from Wall Street slightly, but Main Street is still cleaning up the mess from the big party Wall Street threw, in its house, at its expense.


At this point, it may come down to numbers: 2.3 percent ($85 billion) of our total federal budget ($3.8 trillion). For a moment, forget about the hundreds of thousands of people who will be affected. They don’t matter right now. Think of the millions that will be affected once this becomes a pattern for the next ten years. This potential default could literally shut down our government!


Are our representatives really that selfish, inept, or is this all about spite towards opposing parties? If it is, this pissing contest has to end now! The overall well being of our country and our credibility as a nation depends on our level of cooperation. A political grudge match does absolutely nothing to help us.


How can we claim our country is the best this planet has to offer when we are willing to risk the general welfare of the public? Our own elected officials are deliberately sabotaging the societal structure of our nation.


The senators, congressmen, and government officials will still have their pension plans and guaranteed salaries, but what about the everyday tax paying, law abiding citizens? What’s left for them?


We saw this kind lack of compassion in ’08 exemplified by the breakdown in collective commitment. We’re seeing the same thing now.


When will our government learn to put childish behavior aside and put America first?  When will this financial nightmare end?