What happens when politicians can’t agree?
The question itself isn’t gigantic or ground-breaking. Indeed, the real point of politics is the representation of different viewpoints, and that means they will inevitably come into conflict with one another. Politicians that don’t agree really just mean they’re doing what we intended them to do at the end of the day. But, seriously, what happens when politicians can’t agree? In reality, even the politicians themselves were so stumped that they came up with the “Sequester.” This word has been thrown around and much-toted by the scare-mongering “drama means money” media but with no real context. It was intended as the absolute point where politicians must agree, lest incredibly unpopular cuts come in on programs defined as “discretionary spending.” Largely this is defense money, but affects other programs like Medicare. Presumably, the sheer outcry against the cuts would lead to impeachments and recalls on government representatives, and so it is in the interest of individual politicians and their parties to make sure it doesn’t happen. I mean, they would look like ineffective policy makers at the very least. And the word “sequester” itself seems to paint a picture of a hard-working body, like a jury, doing their damnedest to reach a decision. They didn’t choose the term randomly, right?
But here we are, barely a quarter into the year 2013 and the Sequestration of funding has started. The Congressional Budget office projects it’ll affect upwards of three-quarter of a million jobs and will negatively affect the economy by .6%. On the big picture, this is massive. So why didn’t the Sequester work to force an agreement? Why is America, now, going to suffer when the line in the dirt was so clearly drawn on what must be done?
Political self-interest is the smart answer. Corruption, greed, and complacence is the real answer.
In the sequester, we’re talking about a series of negative consequences that fall on absolutely no-one at the top level of government. Even civil-service workers’ pensions are unaffected. It’s a blanket stereotype to say everyone working at the capital, by extension everyone in government, is wealthy and largely isn’t affected by such cuts, but such exaggerations imitate the truth. The reality is politicians are widely in the top 10% of earners in the United States, and are, worse, in a unique position to guarantee themselves things that even those in the upper-middle class have to work for. Their benefits and salaries are legendary. John Boehner makes $223,500 a year while Nancy Pelosi and Eric Cantor make $193,400 a year. After 25 years in the government can have up to 80% of that in a yearly pension, and there’s no real problem keeping your seat as an incumbent. That doesn’t even include speaking and appearance fees, book royalties, and paid news commentary jobs. Altogether, these are figures that even the Wall-Street journal would call unrealistic, and we expect these people to represent our interests? No, maybe not. But here’s an easier objective: compromise for the goddamn country. It is your job.
And that is the reality of this sequester. Their jobs are valuable to us inasmuch as we have to abide their decisions. I’m understating, it’d be better to say: “Their elected positions in the Government of these United States are integral into the system such that we are directly and dramatically affected by their lack of even scant decision making.” On the other hand, the takeaway for politicians is money and power, both individually and at the national level. More people in the House and Senate means more control, leading to more success with their agenda, resulting in more confidence of their donors and their subsequent “investments.” Partisanship ultimately manifests in order to protect their profits, and the brinksmanship that plays with the lives of this nation is the ultimate consequence.
Never forget, either, that this “Sequester” was set up BY THE GOVERNMENT. The same people that did nothing while it was coming into effect decided that this was the way to make sure politicians didn’t get that far. All while pointing the finger into the opposite camp, decrying the opposition as the real perpetrators. It is the act of a child not to compromise, especially when so much is on the line, but that of a brat to set standards for themselves and then refute them with lame excuses, not just break them. Maybe we’ve grown complacent with the general conception of politics; one that is always made up of broken promises, sound-byte grandstanding, baseless arguing, illogical action, and the self-righteousness and entitlement of politicians. And how can we be blamed? For most of us in the United States the lights are on, the water is running and gets warm, and food is everywhere. There seem few reasons to complain when your status quo is this good. Nevertheless, the whole affair reeks of a bona-fide crime. Here is our government at work (hardly working at that) stealing out of our pockets the money that might keep those lights on, that water running, and the food everywhere, while taking away the minute hope that a job might bring. Is that force-fed shit-sandwich acceptable to you, if it means you don’t have to disturb the hive?
The growth of a political-class seemed like nonsense and conspiracy theories to me when I was first introduced to the concept, but with the world economic situation falling apart and more victims piling up while the governors of the world continue like business-as-usual, self-preserving and self-interested to the last man, it is impossible to ignore the competing assurances of progress and recovery being spewed out of politicians’ mouths while they’re sitting on their golden thrones. That is without mentioning the consolidation of control politicians are bullying their way to. Republicans coming out of the 2008 election were basically competing for who was least like George Bush Jr. to force through John McCain, and even now the Democrats spend more time making sure they fall in line with Obama’s “hope” and “change” schemes for votes. Neither party can come down off their high-horse long enough to get some bullshit bill through that would at the very least delay the sequester. I mean, they did it before. In August 2011. With the same administration. And this is all while politicians throw money down the toilet and out the window like its radioactive. Spending topped out at $1 billion dollars for the presidential campaign on both sides. One. Billion. Dollars. All to buy your vote, and force you to pick a side, which they will turn into more and more funding in time.
So where is our justice? What can we do? Certainly we have some ability to call out and dismiss the people we basically hire to do a job for us, right? Yes and no. In Idaho and New Jersey the states were shot down by the Supreme Court, as a vehicle for removing Senators. But that is based on shaky constitutional law, and has never been challenged. That is where we fail. There is a real opportunity to make a difference, and even better, a statement. There is no law that says we cannot recall congressmen or senators, simply a lack of anyone trying. It’d be no surprise if I say right now that there are no million-man marches, and no mass movements working towards sweeping out the chaff. And that is the real problem. Say the sequester goes nowhere, that spending crushes it like a bug on the windshield, does that make the inability of our government to act acceptable? Does Newt Gingrich saying his party won’t deal with Obama because they “don’t like him” resemble the professional candor we expected from an elected Congressman of the United States? Does democratic scare-mongering mean anything but more self-serving exploitation? Politics in this country are always basic, but where do we draw our line?