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Gary Horton: Congress’ inaction threatens US

Posted: August 22, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 22, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Two weeks ago, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, called a press conference upon his return from a disappointing season over at the congressional gum-up-the-works-of-America factory.

McKeon is pretty honest to admit it. With the polarization of politics, the folks we’ve paid to represent us in Washington aren’t exactly in a frenzy, working together late into the night to solve our nation’s ills. Rather, reality is that we’ve just suffered a dramatic, traumatic, and most unfortunate two-year congressional stare-off.

Hooray for party politics!

At the press conference, McKeon said he’s worried about money and debt. “Sequestration” is just around the corner and kicks in next January unless our stare-off, do-nothings oddly change course and ... do something.

McKeon explained what evil lurks behind this mysterious name. “Sequestration” refers to funds that are automatically pulled from, or “sequestered” from, the operating budgets of the various functions of our national government.

The Democrats and Republicans in Congress voted for sequestration last year to place a motivational ax over their own heads if they didn’t act on a bipartisan plan to reduce the budget. Even McKeon voted for sequestration then, figuring that, “for sure with this nightmare threat pending we’ll get something done.”

Well, the do-nothings did nothing, and now the ax is set to fall. Who would have thought?

Republicans couldn’t allow Obama a budget victory, and Obama couldn’t — or wouldn’t — budget sufficiently for Republicans to appease their high finance masters. Apparently, facing the ax at the nation’s peril was favorable over facing down one’s constituency.

Now McKeon and every other representative with a brain are sweating the honest to goodness hell that will be raised should nobody do anything ... again.

Ironically, both McKeon and Obama are largely worried about the same ax falling ... just about different edges.

McKeon worries that with the military having already taken a $50 billion cut over the next 10 years, sequestration’s mandate of another $50 billion would cripple our armed forces at a time when he feels the world is more unstable than ever. (An ironic outcome of the vast treasures we’ve already dumped in wars and armies these past eight years.)

McKeon and the generalissimos are sweating bullets that the military industrial complex might get squeezed to ineffectiveness.

McKeon explains that sequestration also guts discretionary spending such as health and education. Like our national parks. Like roads and highways and infrastructure improvement.

Yet the real budget-busting culprits, Medicare and Social Security, remain unscathed. Sequestration shakes down important public functions to cover for Congress’ and the president’s lack of courage to act on sensitive, but runaway, entitlements.

So how does sequestration threaten you and me if it leaves Social Security and Medicare alone? Here again, both McKeon and Obama and agree:

So much money will be pulled out of the budget so quickly that it will lower America’s GDP by as much as 3 to 4 percent in 2013 alone. Our economy is only growing 2 percent this year, so a 3 to 4 percent hit may trigger another, much larger economic spiral than the one we just suffered. Ready for another mega-recession?

Soldiers will lose jobs as the military takes cuts. War-goods manufacturers will suffer, as will their workers receiving pink slips and furloughs. Bases will be shuttered, and local services will shutter along with them.

As education, parks and other public service funds get cut, funds flowing to teachers, rangers, service providers, contractors — all get whacked fast. These service providers will reduce personal spending, impacting their communities and neighbors. And the American public loses as the valued public services they provide are also decimated.

During the housing crash, hundreds of billions of dollars were instantly vaporized, throwing us into a five-year tailspin. With a multiplier effect, sequestration could trigger something similar.

This isn’t a made-up fear — it’s very real, and our do-nothing Congress set these dominos in motion. So who needs foreign enemies when we’ve got political terrorists working against Americans right in our own Capital?

Now, McKeon is worried first about the military, then about our jobs, but he’s honestly worried about both. Obama is worried about our jobs, then the military, but no doubt he, too, is worried about both.

So why can’t we all just get along, fix the darn problem and forge ahead? The answer is depressingly simple: Our various factions of government are beholden to special interests that are not in our overall best interest — and they’re willing to play chicken with America until they win.

During the press conference, McKeon spoke fondly of the bygone days of Bill Clinton as president, when reds and blues could sit at a table and get things done.

For all our sakes, Buck, lead and urge your party to cooperate on this issue to keep us economically safe. Tell Obama you’re finally ready to deal like he’s Clinton, and then deal, before the deal’s too late.

Both you and Obama agree, there’s little time to lose.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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