We the People: Congress continues political games

By Clark Hopper

Congress is still putting on a circus regarding the sequester. Republicans are saying if we do not not have budget cuts this year, the whole U.S. economy will collapse because of the nation’s enormous indebtedness. The Democrats say economic recovery will be derailed and the automatic cuts of 8 percent for the Pentagon and 5 percent for other programs will compromise our nation’s defense.
Both claims are fairy tales. Remember the sequester was about $86 billion in spending for the current year. With a federal budget of $3.5 trillion and a national economy of $16 trillion, it is not the end of the world. Eighty six billion dollars represents just 2.46 percent of the federal budget and it represents just 0.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.
In December, Congress allowed federal funding for emergency unemployment benefits to expire. That sucked $30 billion out of the economy this year, taking it all from people who are jobless and desperate. At the same time, it ended the temporary 2 percent cut in the FICA tax for Social Security. That sucked another $115 billion out of all workers’ pockets. A total of $145 billion was deleted without any concern for the impact it would have on the economy. That is nearly twice the amount cut from the sequestration.
America’s war machine will take a hit for the first time. An 8 percent cut in Pentagon spending will hardly be noticed. It would expose the ancient lie that the country’s security depends upon even greater spending on war and preparing for war. A lie that now has America spending more on war than the rest of the world combined! The fraud and abuse by huge military industrial corporations could easily absorb the $86 billion, 2.46 percent of the federal budget. Consider eliminating the military’s $400 billion F-35 boondoggle, a fighter plane already costing $166 million per plane, in production despite a schedule that will not have it finished for flight-testing until 2019. This plane has flaws so many flaws it probably never will be able to fly combat missions!
Let us look at what caused the sequester saga. Republicans are not entirely wrong when they claim the sequester was the White House’s idea. The 2011 debt-ceiling debacle led Congress to pass The Budget Control Act of 2011. It established a bipartisan “super committee” tasked with coming up with $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction measures. The sequester was hatched due to the failure of the “super committee,” which was a result of Congress failing to do its job. Congress then passed a law saying if both parties could not agree on a plan to reach the $4 trillion goal, about a trillion dollars of additional budget cuts would take effect this year. The purpose of these arbitrary cuts were to make them so distasteful and disagreeable Democrats and Republicans would get together, find a good compromise of sensible cuts, close tax loopholes, etc. Again, Congress failed the people and kicked the can down the road!
The White House must directly refute two big misconceptions fueling the Republican assault, since the showdown over the debt ceiling in the summer of 2011. The first falsehood is austerity economics; they claim the budget deficit is the nation’s biggest economic problem now, responsible for the anemic recovery. Wrong, the problems are too few jobs, low wages and slow growth. The second is trickle down economics. They claim we get more jobs, growth of corporations and the rich have more money, because they are job creators and job growth would be hurt if their taxes were raised! Actually, the real job creators are the broad middle class and everyone who aspires to join. Their purchases keep the economy going. As inequity continues to widen and wealth becomes even more concentrated at the top, the rest do not have the purchasing power they need to boost the economy. That is the underlying reason the recovery continues to be so weak.
Republicans are not just having a bad year or bad election cycle. With a shrinking minority, unable to agree on rebuilding within their party and continued fighting amongst themselves, we can project bad decades for them. According to a recent Pew poll 62 percent of Americans find the GOP out of touch, 52 percent find them too extreme and resistant to change. Republican Party favorability does not even reach 30 percent, with no bottom insight. The party has two major incompatible factions: The corporate establishment, who are for low taxes, low regulations and state subsidies verses, a motley Limbaugh mess of anti-tax Tea Partiers, evangelicals, NRA purists, fringier insurgents, and secessionist militias. Mike Tomasky, Newsweek/Daily Beast special correspondent says, “The problem is that (so much GOP) is fanatical, a machine of rage, hate and resentment. We have never seen anything like this in the modern history of our country. There’s a symbiosis of malevolence between the extreme parts of the GOP base and Washington lawmakers and it is destroying the Republican Party.” Unfortunately, in some cases, we witness these same dynamics in Saline County. All we can hope for is the GOP will become more benevolent and less fractured.
This column is not based on my opinion alone; it includes available internet and news media information.

Clark Hopper is a resident of Saline County. His column appears each Saturday in the Saline Courier.