Repeal the Sequester: It is Dumb and Damaging

Robert Borosage

“Spending cuts hold back US growth,” warns an across the page headline of the conservative Financial Times. No surprise there.

Americans are in trouble.  Wages are losing ground.  Over 20 million need full-time work.  The percentage of working-age Americans with jobs is at its lowest level since 1979.

And now cuts in government spending – led by the idiotic sequester that was designed to be so abhorrent that it would never be adopted – are crippling an already lame “recovery.”  The sequester isn’t just dumb; it’s damaging.  Please join in calling for its repeal.  Go here to tell your legislator to repeal the sequester.

Last week, the Congress heard from businessmen and women stranded on flights delayed because of the furloughs of air traffic controllers.  Spurred by the anger of the moneyed class, it took only four days for the supposedly gridlocked Congress to “circumvent” the sequester for airline passengers.

Commentators noted that the Republican House leadership couldn’t seem to hear the cries of 800,000 jobless workers in 19 states who suffered cuts of an average of $120 a month in their unemployment checks.  Or the thousands of children about to lose access to Head Start programs.  Or the 140,000 households who will be deprived of housing vouchers.  Or the 70,000 college students who will lose access to grants they depend on.

It’s no secret that when money talks, Congress listens.  What is incredible is that Congress seems intent on driving this economy back into recession, which will lead to more unemployment and spreading misery.

The sequester cuts are merely the most perverse of Washington’s austerity lunacies.  The economy is slowing.  Exclude episodic spending on inventories, the growth in the first quarter of 2013 was 1.5 percent (down from 2.4 percent in the third quarter of 2012 and 1.9 percent in the fourth quarter).

Wages aren’t keeping up with prices.  Families have been saving less.  Add the payroll tax hike and consumers aren’t going to drive the economy.  Exports are down since Europe is sinking under austerity, Japan is a mess and China is slowing.  Business has been able to sustain profits by cost-cutting, moving jobs abroad, or displacing them with technology.  But that can’t keep up for long.  The stock market has soared, but can’t keep rising if the economy doesn’t follow.

This is a poisonous mix.  The Federal Reserve is taking extreme measures to fend off economic decline, but it can’t do it alone. The situation, as The New York Times editorialized on Sunday, “urgently calls for more federal spending, not less.”

It is offensive that Congress should act with alacrity to relive the inconvenience suffered by airline passengers while doing nothing for the agonies being visited upon the weak and the impoverished.  But it is both dumb and dangerous that the Congress continues to inflict austerity on Americans who are already struggling.

Enough.  The fight over what kind of America we want can go on.  The partisan feuds can continue.  But it’s time to stuff the dumb and dangerous.  Repeal the idiotic sequester now.

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