So now the infamous sequester has come and gone without a deal between President Obama, Congressional Democrats and their Republican counterparts to avert the cuts. What was routinely said to be impossible in the late summer of 2011 has become a reality. What do you know? The looming threat of billions of dollars in cuts to treasured programs was not enough to get politicians to act against it. And now, as one would expect, the higher-ups in the American government are tossing around the blame for what went wrong as though it’s a hot potato that no one wants the press to see them with. More subtly, nearly everyone who speaks in reference to the cuts discusses it in a way that make the cuts sound like an alien monster descending from the sky, snatching billions of federal money and flying away while giggling malevolently to itself.
Well, that’s interesting because the sequester is not Lex Luther or any other outside force. If one wants to point the blame at one entity, look no further than our leaders, using the word generously. Both sides have argued that spending cuts are necessary and that the federal government spends far too much compared to what it takes in. That is certainly true; despite the roughly $85 billion in cuts, the government will still run more than an $800 billion deficit. This is not sustainable.
However, it would appear that very few people in the American government want to do what is essential to fix the problem or have enough patience to accept long-term solutions, which the sequester is not. The fact that the sequester exists implies a fear by lawmakers that everyone would be too cowardly to dirty their hands with tax increases or spending cuts that will anger their voters and harm their chances for re-election. And this is not limited to one side of the divide. Democrats talk of cuts, but they raise hell when someone suggests that the entitlement system be reformed, chiefly the funding that is directed at Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans seem to talk of nothing but cuts, but there are some in the party who see one dollar in defense cuts as an open invitation to Russian, Chinese, zombie and Martian invasions.
This is not an argument for austerity. If the last few years of European politics have proven anything, austerity or steep tax increases and budget cuts, does not generate the growth needed to get out of a recession and get the economy going again. Like government spending or not, it is a huge driving force behind the economy. That is a large part of the argument against sequestration – it’s austerity, and the saving grace of this country’s current circumstances is that we have enough private sector growth that is beginning to pick up that we won’t fall into an economic sinkhole because of this. That being said, it will hurt and slow the growth of the American economy as it is beginning to get on its feet again.
So what’s the answer? Well, there is no quick fix. Believe it or not, if there were an easy answer to all of these problems, it would have been agreed upon by now. There is a great deal of government spending that we desperately need if we want to have anything close to the lifestyle we have today. Even if you believe in cuts to entitlement programs, simply hacking away at them will reduce many senior citizens and the impoverished to circumstances not befitting a first-world nation. And even if you believe in defense cuts, it would be asinine to deny the crucial role that the U.S. military plays in world affairs, even if just as a symbolic deterrent to our enemies, and that is often the role we play. Our military serves a vital role in maintaining stability in the world, and taking a meat cleaver to the defense budget with impunity would severely hamper that.
In the end, the progress towards fiscal stability will be long and difficult. It will require years of trimming away at unnecessary government spending and finding places where the American people can afford to give up a little. Unfortunately, that requires a level of taxation that gives the government enough revenue to help keep the country growing. However, that does not mean throwing an infinite number of tax laws into the fray and sipping every last penny from already cash-strapped Americans. Taxes should be targeted at the high-risk practices that got us into this mess and lead to a culture on Wall Street where massive sums of money trade hands amongst a select few.
There are a slew of problems that this nation faces, but one of the most persistent is the vast wealth inequality. Some would call this the inevitable outcome of capitalism, or at least one variation of it. However, capitalism was not meant to be feudalism or serfdom. Capitalism only truly works for the better of an entire nation or the majority of its people if enough of the population can be involved in driving the economy forward, this portion of the population usually referred to as the middle class. These economic conditions usually lead to greater political stability. On the other hand, when the vast majority of the wealth is in the hands of a few people, so is political power. In the past, this has happened because of an aristocracy or nobility. In modern history, this happens when the wealthiest in society, whether they inherited or acquire that wealth, have the same political and economic dominance in society as those in the aristocracy would.
To return to the beginning, the sequester is the coward’s way around the need to get our financial house in order and the government must not put the full brunt of this pain on the average citizen. They must settle down for the long haul of gradual deficit reduction and strike at one of the greatest underlying problems in this country: your political worth is equal to your net worth.


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