Monday, August 5, 2013

A Threat to Justice Everywhere

“A second year under sequestration will have a devastating, and long lasting, impact on the administration of justice in this country,” “slash operations to the bones” "profoundly compromise" “We do not have projects or programs to cut; we only have people. We must adjudicate all civil and criminal cases that are filed with the courts,” the judges wrote. “Our workload does not diminish because of budget shortfalls. … Another round of cuts would be devastating.”

The Orlando Sentinel and the Tampa Tribune have done fantastic jobs of detailing how the sequester is threatening the U.S. justice system. The sequester is literally a threat to the justice of our justice system and also a threat to the just Catholic social doctrine of the "preferential option for the poor." This blog entry is the place for the who, what, where, when, and why of the sequester.

In August 2011, with the Tea-Party led Congress holding the United States' credit hostage, Congress and the President agreed to the "Budget Control Act." A majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for the Sequester but in the Senate it was a majority of Democrats. Obama may have thought up the idea under duress, but it was 98% of what the Tea-Party influenced House wanted.

Journalist Bob Woodward basically said the idea for including the military in the sequester was Obama's idea. Now this is being used by Republicans, who got 98% of what they wanted, and can blame Obama for it. The Republican impetus for the sequester was threatening not to raise our nation's debt limit. As blogger Billmon put it, this tactic was akin to the guy in the movie Blazing Saddles who took himself hostage. In retrospect, it was a horrible move for President Obama to give in to these shenanigans. To make matters worse, the U.S. credit rating was dropped despite the sequester compromise.

Furthermore, in car accidents the driver who has the "last clear chance" to avoid an accident are supposed to take it or it is their fault. The Republican Congress has failed to stop the sequester, therefore it is their fault.

Sequester is for all practical purposes a misnomer. Sequester makes it sound as if Republicans could be in favor of cutting the budget while being against sequester. It makes it sound superficially plausible that President Obama wants to raise taxes instead of cutting the budget and still be the one to blame for the sequester. Calling it deep budget cuts instead would reduce this confusion.

(The "fiscal cliff" sounded much more alarming and many of us thought disaster was averted on January 1 of this year. In reality, only lessening tax hikes had been accomplished. That compromise was not so bad. I wish the parties could compromise on the sequester. There is no room for compromise due to gerry-mandered districts. Because of gerrymandered districts there is no fear of re-election and no room for compromise due to deeply red and deeply blue districts.)

Indeed, when you realize that if the Republicans in Congress didn't want they sequester all they'd have to do is vote to repeal it--as they've done to The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare) 40 times. But in contrast to repealing Obamacare, repealing the sequester would be able to pass the Senate and be signed by the president. The only reason Republicans won't repeal the sequester is because they want it's deep cuts, or even deeper ones with the exception of military cuts.  So Politifact notwithstanding, Republicans should not only own the sequester, they love it!

Admittedly President Obama's idea of the Sequester as a supposed deterrent--a Mutually Assured Destruction, if you will, was flawed. MAD worked in the U.S.-Communist Cold War, but is outdated in defending against terrorists. For MAD to work, you have to have a rational opponent not hell-bent on destruction. Followers of sociopath Ayn Rand want "moochers" to suffer while followers of Grover Norquist want to shrink government and "drown it in a bathtub." Such right-wing nut-jobs hate the government. I just wish they wouldn't run for elected office and that no one would vote for them. These are not rational opponents.

Lastly, if air traffic controller furloughs had continued the sequester would be over by now. As Martin Luther King, Jr,, put it “When you impede the rich man's ability to make money, anything is negotiable." That leverage should never have been given up by the Democrats.