FERGUSON: The sequestration blues

March 8, 2013 

I don’t know of any context in which being sequestered is a good thing. Until recently I associated the term with being held prisoner in a hotel room while serving jury duty for some high profile case. Now, the word has an even worse connotation for me and a lot of other people in Middle Georgia as the federal government’s version of sequestering us might result in a 20 percent pay cut for the rest of this fiscal year.

Those of us who work for Uncle Sam are starting to feel like we are suffering from battered employee syndrome. We’ve already had our pay frozen for several years and that could go on for some time.

Like everyone else we also got hit with higher Social Security taxes at the beginning of this year. And now it is very possible that we will be sent home without pay one day a week from late April through late September.

Factor in inflation and it’s obvious that federal workers have been losing ground financially for some time now. In a town like Warner Robins, where the salaries of Robins Air Force Base workers pretty much drive the economy, the pain is going to be felt by every business in the area as many of us have less and less money to spend.

I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize all of the players in Washington, D.C., who had a hand in this fiasco, from the president on down to every single member of Congress in both parties, for the role they’ve played in screwing over not only federal workers but the entire country. They are all, every single one of them, a disgrace to the offices they hold.

I especially enjoyed the fact that Congress took an extended vacation right before sequestration took effect. I couldn’t be more disappointed in each and every one of them. And yes, that includes the men who represent my district.

Maybe you think I’m being too harsh, especially if you lean towards one party or the other and would like to lay the blame at the other side’s feet. That is (for lack of a more family-friendly term) nonsense.

Our representatives in Congress should have been standing on their desk in the Capitol building, refusing to eat or sleep until both sides came together and passed a budget that really dealt with the deficit issue and gave us a long-term financial plan. Well, I hope they enjoyed their vacations.

I think we’d all be able to live with the financial hardships this sequestration thing is going to cause for us if it was part of a plan that was actually going to solve our nation’s financial problems. But it’s not going to do that. Not even close.

It does not touch the entitlement spending that is the real driver of our runaway expenses. That problem is still hanging over our heads. What’s more, because of the ham-handed, poorly planned way in which the budget is being cut, there will be strong repercussions in the business world that will have the effect of lowering tax revenue in ways we can only guess at. We can’t really be sure how much money these cuts will really save the government when all the repercussions are felt.

What we do know is that these budget cuts are being forced on government agencies with no time to plan how to make them intelligently. It was set up that way, to be so unpalatable that Congress and the president would be forced to come up with a better way of trimming the deficit before sequestration took effect.

It turns out it was a dumb idea, because it made the assumption that our government is not completely dysfunctional and is able to accomplish its most basic task. That was obviously a very bad assumption.

Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at fergcolumn@hotmail.com or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.

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