The sequester is officially here; a projected $86 Billion that will be ruthlessly stripped out of the Federal budget with no eye toward the socio-political implications of the slashing and burning. Tea party factions are all agog about their dreams coming true regarding ‘wasteful government spending’, and more than a few people are incalculably happy that the sacred cow of military spending is being put on a restricted diet. How sequestration affects you, however, and its widening nefarious ripples throughout the nation will have differing results, but there is one clear eventuality as inevitable as the sunrise: wage disparities and the income gap just received a new installation of hydraulic jacks to push them farther apart.
Of the five that I found, one of the more interesting definitions of ‘sequester’ was “to appropriate an enemy’s property.” But who is the enemy here? Asian fighting arts talk about the true enemy being one’s own self, defeating one’s own ego, one’s own difficulties, that is true victory. Have we done that with the sequester?
Economic and political calculus do not appear to have been part of the equation. If the objective was reducing government spending by a certain amount, then that objective failed impressively. Yea though Wall Street may have reacted favorably at the outset of this activity, it was a tangential inclination at best, a gesturing as they would toward any large scale corporation bravely taking on its debt obligations and getting their financial house in order. But let us examine a few more technical terms along the way.
Structural imbalance, for one. The country currently has more debt than it does annual income to cover it. That wouldn’t generally be a huge ordeal except for the fact that we have lost our triple “A” credit rating, and – though I take issue with much of her coverage of events, - Erin Burnett is correct in asking: “It’s been five hundred eighty …. days since we lost our triple “A” rating, so what are we doing to get it back?” Sequestering the economy is definitively not on the good list. As this overcomes inertia, Federal agencies are readying thousands upon thousands of furlough letters to civilian employees. An estimated 10,000 teachers are on their way to receiving the same. And while advocates of the sequester continue to bray like donkeys that these are iconic representatives of governmental bloat, consider this: every time an agency employee paycheck goes out, every time an unemployment check is signed, it is also taxed. That’s right, the very thing that is so frequently cited as being undeniable evidence of the problem with government financing is, in fact, helping to fix the problem.
Following that, there is an additional undisclosed difficulty. The Labor market – now already oversaturated with skilled, experienced, viable candidates, and hovering just slightly under 8% unemployment for the nation, is about to be flooded again with the surplus employees that will receive their walking papers on Monday. The overburden of workers will again – as it did during the recession, – drive down wage rates in response to the tremendous surplus in the market. And since American corporations calmly and unflinchingly sit on an excess of $1 Trillion in assets, but steadfastly refusing to hire, that is something that the stock market will factor into its calculation in a few months. Wage floors and income gaps partly have to do with how long we are waiting on Comprehensive Immigration Reform and allowing workers to have labor protections as naturalized citizens. However, one crucial detail seems overlooked: sequester supporters are also staunch allies of stemming the tide of immigration, despite overwhelming economic evidence that they help our economy. Given that, it seems nonsensical that, as part of these actions $512 Million was hewn from Customs and Border Security as well as the $20 Million in Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology they claim is indispensible in preventing the river of cheap labor entering our country from spilling over its banks. That is to say nothing of the amount of illicit narcotics that might travel unchecked into the country as a result.
Additionally, the assessment of any company includes peeking around corners for potential new revenue sources. Despite every conceivable effort to the contrary, the sequester supersedes the most plainly available new funding stream: a minor increase in tax rates yielding supplemental revenues from an entire class of people who could most easily afford it. Instead, as those same budget hawks are generally wont to equating national debt with the plight of future generations, they have in fact done precisely the thing they claimed to be preventing by enacting the sequester. By saddling the middle and lower classes with the tax burden, they have mercilessly encumbered future generations of everyone outside of the top 1% with cycles of poverty and less than stellar attainments well into the out years. That is, unless the government can uncontort itself and sort this mess out post haste.
Thomas Mann and Norman Orenstein writing in the Washington Post last week called this “taking a meat ax to government as we know it…” and they are absolutely correct. The question is, is this truly that for which we elected our government officials? Or is it not? An availability of alternatives abounds, now to convince them of the same.