Misulonas: Sequestration cuts hang Americans out to dry


Joseph Misulonas, Forum Editor

In August 2011, the White House and Congress reached an agreement on deficit reduction that many thought was a smart move. If no deal for long-term deficit reduction was in place by Jan. 1, 2013 then a mandatory $1.3 trillion in cuts — known as sequestration — would go into effect.

This was a wonderful idea: We force the government to work together to make a deal that would benefit the country for the next decade. In fact, we make the cuts brutal enough to assure the United States would go into a recession if they were enacted. No one would be stupid enough to let that happen.

Well, no one except politicians.

On Jan. 1, the White House and Congress realized they couldn’t make a deal, so they postponed the sequestration for two months. On Tuesday, the president offered a short-term solution that would postpone the sequestration again.

There is merit to President Obama’s proposal. The cuts would be devastating to an already shaky American economy. Estimates for potential job loss range from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s $1 million to the Congressional Budget Office’s $1.4 million. The United States cannot afford to let these cuts go into effect.

And yet, can we really afford not to? What does it say about our government when we give ourselves a deadline to address our nation’s enormous deficit — and then when the day comes, we just kick the can down the street again, hoping someone else will take care of it for us?

So we’re in the awkward position of being unable to let the cuts take effect, but also being unable not to. We can delay the sequestration for another two months, six months, or even two years, but it is unlikely that either party will give up enough ground in negotiations to avert the cuts, no matter how far we put them off.

The problem with the sequestration cuts is that it doesn’t affect Congress in any way. When the cuts go through, it won’t be the politicians that will be losing their jobs; it will be average Americans. Sequestration cuts aren’t holding the government’s feet to the fire; they’re holding ours, and we don’t have a say in how to avoid them.

We all know how this will play out. Democrats and Republicans will come to some compromise that no one seems to like and will only delay the inevitable. Americans have to find a way to put pressure on Congress to stop taking our economy hostage.

It’s time that we weren’t the only ones feeling the heat.

Joseph Misulonas is a Medill junior. He can be reached at [email protected]If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].