Americans today “are turned off and tuned out of the sequestration mess in Washington. To a person, they are sick of the antics of those to whom they have entrusted enormous power.” So begins David Gergen in his column today, and I can’t find anything in his argument with which to disagree.
The clowns we elected to represent us in Washington—and in many many cases, re-elected…shame on us—have failed to take care of one of the most fundamental things we send them to Washington to do: set a budget for the operation of our government. Actually, as Gergen correctly notes, they have failed to do that one thing for four years running—so far. Back in the summer of 2011 they set a trap to force themselves to act, promising across the board budget cuts at the end of 2012 at such a severe level that it was inconceivable they wouldn’t act to stop them from going into effect; when they still couldn’t beat that deadline they passed a law giving themselves two more months to wrap it up. Well, here we are, two months later, but this time there doesn’t even seem to be the possibility that they can get together to give themselves more time. The ineptitude is astounding!
It’s not unusual to have the legislative and executive branches of government disagree about taxes or spending or any other policy issue; historically, someone on one side or the other finds a way to force a resolution. But as Gergen points out, “we have a rare moment when both Congress and the president are retreating from their responsibilities. It’s hard to recall a time when we were so leaderless.” The Republicans and the Democrats, the president and Congress, everyone is busy running from microphone to microphone insisting that there’s nothing they can do about it. And the whole argument has become so tiresome that even in the face of budget cuts that threaten basic services, things we can all pretty much agree that government should be taking care of, a lot of Americans are just yawning and looking the other way. How many times can the boy cry “wolf” before the villagers ignore the call?
Let’s hope we haven’t thrown in the towel yet, because this sequestration circle jerk isn’t the end of the line: whether these cuts go into effect this Friday or not, there’s a potential government shutdown only four weeks down the road if there’s no agreement on new spending authorization. If we don’t dig up some leadership somewhere, what’s been going around for the last few years is going to come around again and again and again. No winners here, America, not if we aren’t willing to find a compromise that keeps the whole thing from crashing down on our heads.