Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Blowing Gaskets

I blew a gasket during my drive in to work last week. Not literally. What I mean to say is that my emotional relief valve lifted, and I vented primary coolant to the atmosphere. Still too metaphorical? OK. I was driving to work last Friday, when I got angry about what I was hearing, and I shouted at my radio. Clear now?

What set me off was a segment on NPR’s Morning Edition. He was reporting on hearings convened by the Senate Appropriations Committee concerning the looming spending cuts mandated as part of the so-called Sequestration. The Secretary of Education cited cuts to Head Start, calling them “educational malpractice, economically foolish, and morally indefensible.” The Secretary of Homeland Security asserted that layoffs and furloughs to border patrol agents, customs agents, and airport screeners would lead to a porous border and long delays at airports. A (the?) Deputy Defense Secretary testified that training and maintenance would be curtailed and that many of the Defense Department employees affected are veterans. Naylor went on to report that fewer inspectors for the U.S. Department of Agriculture would mean that billions of pounds of meat, poultry, and egg products would go unprocessed.

In short, if these spending cuts are allowed to happen, the U.S. economy will grind to a halt.

I doubted this implied assertion. If true that a reduction in spending of $85 billion out of an annual “budget” of $3.5 trillion is going to result in widespread chaos and economic breakdown, then the federal government really does have its fingers in too many pockets. In many of the cases cited in the hearing on which Mr. Naylor was reporting, it’s not so much that government participation is necessary; rather, the government will not allow the activity to continue without it. Either way, the government has made itself “too big to fail,” and if that’s a bad thing for a bank, it’s also a bad thing for a federal government.

What finally spiked my blood pressure, though, was the comment of Senator Susan Collins of Maine: “If we’re just going to have across-the-board cuts, what is the point of our being here?” My eyes grew wide, my nostrils flared, and with flecks of saliva flying, I screamed at my radio, “The point of your being there is to pass a G—D--- budget!”

The last time the Senate passed a budget was April 29, 2009.

Pardon me while I replace my gasket, reset my relief valve, and clean the spittle from my dashboard.

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