By Nancy Churchill
A Progressive Visionary
I understand sequestration to be intentionally designed to reduce the deficit, with cuts so bluntly draconian as to hurt everyone equally, so that lawmakers would be embarrassed into finding alternative means to lower the deficit. Turns out, lawmakers cannot be too embarrassed to hurt everyone.
I’m guessing most people will feel the pain of these cuts, or will know someone who does. Some may be about to lose their job, or have become dependent upon unemployment for the long term because there are no jobs. Some may be seniors dependent on Meals on Wheels; expectant or new mothers who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); have a child about to lose their enrollment in Head Start; or are cancer patients requiring treatments that keep them alive. All these are on the chopping block.
But don’t think Congress feels your pain.
Lawmakers, who haven’t been able to pass anything meaningful for the past several years, have suddenly advanced a bill with record speed that will relieve some of these cuts. Not by re-funding the programs mentioned above, mind you. Not to support people struggling to get enough to eat. Not anything that would help millions of people whose lives will, in some cases, be literally at risk under sequestration. No, this fix is for the flight delay “disaster” that affected a small percentage of business travelers. Oh, yes, and congresspeople, themselves — just in time to jet home for their furloughs.
This solution ignores us, the middle-class (or as Republican wordsmith Frank Luntz prefers, “hardworking taxpayers”), just as we have been ignored since, oh, I don’t know, 1980. Lawmakers reveal themselves to be so out of touch they used sequestration, which hurts people indiscriminately, as a mere pawn in a sadistic game of one-upmanship between the parties in the halls of Congress.
On his MSNBC show (April 26), Chris Hayes quoted the following memo to the House GOP from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor about the flight delay fix: “Consider that the Democrats’ opening position was they would only replace the sequester with tax increases. … [B]y last night, Senate Democrats were adopting our targeted ‘cut this, not that’ approach. The victory is, in large part, a result of our standing together under the banner of #Obamaflightdelays.”
The “victory” Republicans see in their “cut this” approach is, of course, to keep all the cuts mentioned above, and more. The targeted “not that” means only cuts that affect themselves, i.e., the air traffic controller furloughs (albeit at least air traffic controller jobs are safe!). Getting Democrats to vote in large numbers to end so-called “Obama flight delays” while hoodwinking them into keeping cuts that will, in some cases, put you and your family’s lives at risk is seen as a “victory.”
So, here’s what I don’t get: Unless you are one of the 1 percent who most Republican and many Democratic lawmakers cater to, why would you vote for these people?
Nancy Churchill was raised in the D.R.C. (Congo), raced stock cars on short dirt tracks for 25 years, and is a proud, lifelong member of “We, the People.” She lives in Oregon, Ill.
From the May 15-21, 2013, issue