Friday, March 1, 2013

Down to Their Last Strike

As I tap away, we are within hours of the raw deal that Washington calls sequestration.  It’s truly unfortunate because of the stress it causes families (like my own) whose household balance sheet will become decidedly unbalanced with the draconian pay cut that comes with the sequester.  Since the Department of Defense is taking a huge hit, many of those affected are veterans and reservists who have already made significant sacrifices in recent years.  It would be nice if we welcomed our troops home by thanking them for their dedication and valuing their civilian livelihoods instead of asking them participate in another photo op or forfeit 20% of their pay.  The sequester is particularly disheartening because the words of so many politicians, “Washington is broken” ring true.  That's a serious problem since we are flushing our hard earned tax dollars along with our faith in the American political system down a marbled loo next to the Potomac.

The headline “Bob Woodward threatened by White House over sequester reporting” changed my morose mood to anger.  Whether you like the idea of mandated spending cuts or prefer that we raise taxes, the complete lack of leadership is appalling and the fact that the White House is spending any part of these last few hours doing spin control instead of coming up with a workable plan is infuriating.  I’m not picking a side here -- Congress deserves its fair share of blame.  They agreed to play this game of chicken and abdicate responsibility for the normal negotiating that is part of their job.  The bulk of the five hundred thirty five people who are elected by their states to represent them are choosing their political party over the needs of their constituents at home.  Congress has gone on strike.

When us regular people quit doing our work, we don’t get paid, so “let’s cut their pay!” is the battle cry that has followed this realization that Congress is failing to do its job.  In fact, a group called “No Labels” (which immediately lost some of their shine when it welcomed some of the most hyper partisan members into their ranks and then labeled them “problem solvers”) has been touting “no budget, no pay.”  However, a quick read of the 27th amendment shows that’s clearly not going to happen:

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”  

In other words, the only pay that this Congress can affect is that of the next Congress.  So the slogan should really read, “No Budget, No Pay for the NEXT Congress, But We’re All Set”.  It’s not quite as snappy but it still will take less time to say than actually amending the constitution.  While Maryland was the first state to ratify this amendment in 1789, ratification was not completed until Michigan was the 38th state to ratify it in 1992, a mere 203 years later.  So let’s face it, they can do nothing and we can nothing about it until the next even-numbered November. 

So on deadline day we all sit here with no leadership and no recourse but to await the steaming pile of sequestration.  Like many other American families we’re left to figure out how to deal with the consequences of their brinkmanship.  A first-world problem for sure, but one that should not occur in a country as great as this one.


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