Sequestration will not throw us into economic apocalypse – politicians will. This is not to blame them for not doing anything; truth be told, doing nothing may be the best thing Congress does. The real cause for concern is that sequestration is just the first stride on a road paved with more opportunities for immoral compromises.
Unlike the sequestration, the debt limit looming on March 27 could actually force a government shutdown. Congress must vote on a new continuing resolution, and if they once again do nothing and hit an impasse – the government will shut down.
Next, on tax day – April 15 – a budget resolution is officially due from Congress. It is this milestone to which they have tied the “No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013.” If Congress does not pass a budget and all 12 of the accompanying spending bills setting annual agency budgets on time, every lawmaker’s paycheck would get cut off.
Finally, on May 19 arrives the reinstated debt ceiling standoff. This is the date (as certain as you can be in Washington) when the extension of the debt ceiling expires per the House bill passed three months prior. If no budget is reached and no actions are taken, this is to be the “drop dead” date of a freeze on additional spending.
So – to recap – should Congress continue its inaction, it will cut spending, stop getting paid, not be able to increase the nation’s credit binge and finally shut down and stop working. Is there really a problem here? The real problem comes when politicians get “squishy” and – in attempting to avoid short-term discomfort – abandon long-term principles.
The problem for many on Capitol Hill is that their stance is not one of principles. Instead, it is a series of short-term crises for political gamesmanship. How many people honestly believe this fight is to solve a catastrophe in the manner that is best for the nation and “we the people”? Could you name today one single principle that you are confident Democrats or Republicans would not compromise for the sake of their party first or to win the next election?
The goal today is not to “fix” the problem but to “fixate” the American people on the problem. Everything government does is an almost deliberate push to the 11th hour to either trap the other side into a bad deal or come away looking like a savior. What happens is “we the people” are left out of the equation, and our focus continues to be on government as the solution to the next emergency.
The current sequestration will not spell the end of the country as we know it – our politicians will. The most likely scenario over the next 70 or 80 days is not the systematic falling of the economic dominoes, but misguided attempts to hold them up. The consequence will be a bad budget, more debt and Congress not earning – but still receiving – their pay.
Instead of crisis management, we need principled managers. While short-term pragmatism may fix a crisis – unless leaders with principles and a long-term vision arise – the next crisis will continue to mount and the cycle will never be broken.
Members of Congress insist there will be inevitable, terrible consequences if they do not act immediately. What about the inevitable consequences to our children and generations to come of the government’s actions today? When our leaders compromise their principles for the sake of elections and perceived power, they compromise our liberties and the people’s power.
The next economic apocalypse is coming – it will be in compromises at the hands of the politicians to whom we keep looking to save us. The crises are not going away anytime soon, but we can have to stop looking at parties and start looking to principles again. We need to stop being caught up in the trap of “left versus right” and begin to think and act independently. We need to look less urgently on the manufactured crises used to distract us and more on the realities we face. We need to break away from the emotions of the immediate and begin to think reasoned and critically about the future.
Eric Wilson is the executive director of Kentucky 9/12 Project and co-author of “We Surround Them: Our Journey From Apathy to Action” (Georgetown Grassroots, 2011).