The Idiots Did It. We’re Sequestered.

This is the low point in my time in the United States Congress. I can not tell you how ashamed I am.  

Senator Lindsay Graham, talking about the sequester. 

The Republican/Democrat game of chicken went to the next round last night when Congressional stonewalling forced President Obama to make good on his threats and sign the sequester order.

We’re sequestered. The Republican idiots and the Democratic idiots drove us over the cliff. 

What does this mean to you and me? 

I’m going to give you two replies. One will be what I’ve heard is going to happen to Oklahoma (and by derivation, to everyone else.) The second will be a more official summary. 

1. Oklahoma. What I’ve been told is that the sequester will take about .05% out of Oklahoma’s state budget. I’m expressing it in percent because that will make it easier for you to compute the effect on your state. Since so many of these things are based on population, that will be more accurate for you. I’m guessing, but I would imagine that the percentage will be similar in other states, while the numbers will (due to their higher populations) be higher. What that means in Oklahoma is several hundred million dollars which we will have to make up out of our relatively small state budget.

While that may not sound like a lot of money, (by government standards) one of the things that makes it hard to handle is that we are already well into the budget process. Coming as it does as an unplanned-for hit, it will be harder to make it up. Also, a good bit of this will ultimately be off-loaded on parts of the private sector such as the hospitals, who will have to handle the problems it creates in people’s lives out of their budgets. There will also be a hit on the economy, which will result in lower tax revenues, which could result in another round of this further down the line.

Oklahoma has fared relatively well in the recent economic downturn because we are an oil producing state and oil prices have been high. However, our tax revenues will fall if people buy less because of this sequester. 

Our military bases, such as Tinker Air Force Base, are predicting that they will have to furlough people in order to make up their part of the shortfall that they expect from the sequester. I believe other government agencies will be similarly impacted. This, of course, will also affect tax revenues and the overall economy.

I think we will see similar things all across the country, which is why I’m am detailing this here.

2. What the sequester does. 

President Obama was forced to sign the sequestration order as a result of Congress’ failure to act. This means that unless the members of Congress come back from their long weekend off with a new attitude, the sequester will take affect.

The sequester totals around $85 billion which will come out of the budget over the next 10 months. Non defense programs will be cut by 10% and defense programs will be cut by 13%.

Most government programs will be cut. Social security, Children’s health insurance, food stamps and Medicaid will not be cut. Medicare won’t be cut, but payments to providers will shrink by 2%. 

Most other government programs will feel the cut, with furloughs predicted for agencies ranging from the FAA to the Bureau of Prisons. 

It’s a little difficult to predict exactly what will happen since the President and the Republican leadership differ in what they are telling us and I think both of them are spinning things to bolster their case. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn says that agencies have plenty of space in their budgets to handle the cuts. From what I know of government agencies, I think he’s probably right. However, from what I know of government agencies, I doubt that they will do this. 

I expect more gamesmanship, which I expect means that agencies will not “handle” the cuts at all, and you and I will end up paying for all this. 

The worst of the sequester will not hit until April, since, by law, the government furloughs can’t start until employees have been given 30 days’ notice. If this goes on long enough for that to happen, we’ll start feeling it in all sorts of ways, including a sudden, powerful drag on the economy. For more information, go here and here.

In the meantime, as I said earlier, the president was forced to sign the sequester orders and Congress has gone off on a long weekend after a hard week of doing nothing good for the country. I’ve been through legislative fights, and I would guess they need a cooling-off period. The best thing they can do for all of us is go soak their swollen heads.

As for you and me, we have to decide for ourselves if this is how we want our government to work. We keep getting choices between bad and worse at election time. As a consequence, we’ve elected a whole Congress of party hacks who do not care enough about this country to do the nation’s business. 

I have never and I will never tell anyone to change their party. I have always, and I will always tell you that you need to demand that whichever party you are in clean up its act and stop giving us puppet people for elected officials. 

If you want to chat with your Congressional delegation about this, you can find their phone numbers and email addresses here

We elected these people. We can un-elect them. 

Debt Limit Fight: House of Representatives Stops Saber Rattling, Starts Negotiating

It sounds like the House GOP is finally listening to somebody besides each other.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that they might actually be responding to the disgust coming at them from we the people.

In a reverse of their previous saber-rattling, they have come up with a proposal that would both raise the debt limit and (hopefully) address the deficit. Kudos to them.

Now, it’s up to President Obama. It will be interesting to see how he responds.

A New York Times article describing this situation reads in part:

In Reversal, House G.O.P. Agrees to Lift Debt Limit
By JONATHAN WEISMAN

WASHINGTON — Backing down from their hard-line stance, House Republicans said Friday that they would agree to lift the federal government’s statutory borrowing limit for three months, with a requirement that both chambers of Congress pass a budget in that time to clear the way for negotiations on long-term deficit reduction.
Related

The new proposal, which came out of closed-door party negotiations at a retreat in Williamsburg, Va., seemed to significantly reduce the threat of a default by the federal government in coming weeks. The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said he was encouraged by the offer; Senate Democrats, while bristling at the demand for a budget, were also reassured and viewed it as a de-escalation of the debt fight.

The change in tack represented a retreat for House Republicans, who were increasingly isolated in their refusal to lift the debt ceiling. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio had previously said he would raise it only if it were paired with immediate spending cuts of equivalent value. The new strategy is designed to start a more orderly negotiation with President Obama and Senate Democrats on ways to shrink the trillion-dollar deficit.

To add muscle to their efforts to bring Senate Democrats to the table, House Republicans will include a provision in the debt ceiling legislation that says lawmakers will not be paid if they do not pass a budget blueprint, though questions have been raised whether that provision is constitutional. (Read more here.)

Obama Says He Will Use Executive Orders as Part of Gun Control Package

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama has indicated that he will use executive orders to side-step Congress in his push for gun control.

The use of executive orders has grown over the decades. In my opinion, it has reached the point that it verges on making Congress obsolete. Aside from whatever issue is in question at the time executive orders are used, there is another, underlying issue.

Is Congress going to be reduced to a bombastic cypher? Are we in effect electing a dictator for four years when we elect a president? Has agency rule-making power, as in the case of the HHS Mandate, become a sort of unelected shadow government?

Congress has ceded its natural functions to other entities by virtue of its unwillingness to perform those functions itself. Congress has the power to belay executive orders and agency mandates. But it won’t use it because it is chasing its own legislative tail by focusing all its efforts on constant partisan wrangling. This partisan brinksmanship has reached the point that it is damaging this country directly and destroying the balance of powers indirectly.

Nature and government abhor a vacuum. If Congress refuses to use the powers it is given under the Constitution, some other governmental entity will take them up. In this case, the president, by means of executive orders and faceless agency bureaucrats, by means of regulations and mandates, are usurping Congress’s rightful function.

That means that we the people are being dealt out of the discussion. The president is the one official who should be elected by all the people, but thanks to the electoral college and modern targeted campaigning, that is no longer true.

Both presidents Bush and Obama were elected by means of targeted campaigns aimed at sections of the voters in electorally important states. These campaigns ignored the rest of the country. In November 2012, this resulted in a win for President Obama that was achieved by the odd combination of an electoral landslide coupled with a razor-thin win in the popular vote.

More and more, the president is not elected by all the people, but is, just like members of Congress, elected by targeted coalitions of special interest groups in key areas.

The result is a government so fractured and focused on itself that it no longer even attempts to govern the country. Both sides in these contentious debates about gun control, the deficit and our unending cycle of wars are focused on winning, not on governing. What I mean by that is that they are focused on what it takes to enact the law. Period.

So we have the sorry spectacle of a president who flat-out says he will use executive orders to wire around Congress on one of the most contentious issues facing the country. This is a disastrous move for the country. It can and will create more divisiveness and anger in an already divided and angry nation.

The Associated Press article discussing President Obama’s plans for the upcoming gun control debate reads in part:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing powerful opposition to sweeping gun regulations, President Barack Obama is weighing 19 steps he could take through executive action alone, congressional officials said. But the scope of such measures is limited.

The steps could include ordering stricter action against people who lie on gun sale background checks, seeking to ensure more complete records in the federal background check database, striking limits on federal research into gun use, ordering tougher penalties against gun trafficking, and giving schools flexibility to use grant money to improve safety.

Obama is expected to unveil his proposals Wednesday, barely over a month since the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., thrust the gun issue into the national spotlight after years of inaction by Obama and lawmakers.

At the same time Obama is vowing not to back off his support for sweeping gun legislation that would require congressional backing — including banning assault weapons, limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines and instituting universal background checks — despite opposition from the influential gun lobby.

“Will all of them get through this Congress? I don’t know,” Obama said at a news conference Monday.

“My starting point is not to worry about the politics,” he said. “My starting point is to focus on what makes sense, what works.”

The president said he would unveil a comprehensive roadmap for curbing gun violence within days. His plan will be based on recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden’s gun task force and is expected to include both legislative proposals and steps Obama can implement by himself, using his presidential powers.

White House officials believe moving swiftly on gun proposals at a national level, before the shock over the Newtown shooting fades, gives Obama the best chance to get his proposals through Congress. (Read more here.)

It’s Not About Us or This Country. It’s About Them.

It is not, ever, about us.

It is not, ever, about this country.

Congress is once again heading for another titanic fight over a deadline. This time it’s the debt limit.

Now, I ask you, what would you consider important enough to shut down the government, damage America’s credit rating (all you credit card holders out there, think what happens to your payments when your interest rate goes up) and further traumatize an already traumatized citizenry?

The HHS Mandate? Would saving the First Amendment be enough reason?

Nope.

Ending our cycle of continuous wars? Would stopping the hemorrhage of money and lives that results from always being at way with somebody, somewhere be worth it?

Nope.

What would matter enough to our elected officials for them to push this country to the brink of a full-blown economic shut down and depression. Here, in the words of one of these elected officials, is what’s good enough for them:

“I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,”

That’s it, folks. Mano y mano. Show the president that we’re for real. Get our side up on the political score board.

We’re talking respect for us from the big guy. Anybody stupid enough to elect us is probably also a total fool. We can “frame our message” so that they’ll let us get away with it.

The Politico article discussing the latest looming nation-endangering political temper tantrum reads in part:

“I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,”

House Republicans are seriously entertaining dramatic steps, including default or shutting down the government, to force President Barack Obama to finally cut spending by the end of March.

The idea of allowing the country to default by refusing to increase the debt limit is getting more widespread and serious traction among House Republicans than people realize, though GOP leaders think shutting down the government is the much more likely outcome of the spending fights this winter.

“I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state told us. “We always talk about whether or not we’re going to kick the can down the road. I think the mood is that we’ve come to the end of the road.”

Republican leadership officials, in a series of private meetings and conversations this past week, warned that the White House, much less the broader public, doesn’t understand how hard it will be to talk restive conservatives off the fiscal ledge. To the vast majority of House Republicans, it is far riskier long term to pile up new debt than it is to test the market and economic reaction of default or closing down the government.

GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes. Many more members, including some party leaders, are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,” said a top GOP leadership adviser. “We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.”

The country would eventually default if House Republicans refuse to raise the debt limit, which the Treasury estimates will hit in late February or early March. The government would shut down if House Republicans instead were to refuse to extend the law funding current government operations on March 27.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/behind-the-curtain-house-gop-eyes-default-shutdown-86116.html#ixzz2Hy7M9Fpw

U.S. House Does the Deal

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio

House passes fiscal cliff deal, tamps down

GOP revolt

Despite a divided Republican majority, the House of Representatives late Tuesday easily approved emergency bipartisan legislation sparing all but a sliver of America’s richest from sharp income tax hikes — while setting up another “fiscal cliff” confrontation in a matter of weeks.

Lawmakers voted 257-167 to send the compromise to President Barack Obama to sign into law. Eighty-five Republicans and 172 Democrats backed the bill, which had sailed through the Senate by a lopsided 89-8 margin shortly after 2 a.m. Opposition comprised 151 Republicans and 16 Democrats.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner voted in favor of the deal, as did House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, his party’s failed vice presidential candidate. But Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy voted against it.

Obama, speaking from the White House briefing room shortly after the vote, praised lawmakers for coming together to avert a tax increase that “could have sent the economy back into a recession.” (Read more here.)

Starbucks to Politicians: Come Together

NEW YORK, N.Y. -Associated Press

Starbucks is using its coffee cups to jump into the political fray in Washington.

The world’s biggest coffee chain is asking employees at cafes in the Washington, D.C. area to scribble the words “Come Together” on cups for drink orders on Thursday and Friday. CEO Howard Schultzsays the words are intended as a message to lawmakers about the damage being caused by the divisive negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.”

It’s the first time employees at Starbucks cafes are being asked to write anything other than customers’ names on cups.

While companies generally steer clear of politics to avoid alienating customers, the plea to “Come Together” is a sentiment unlikely to cause controversy. If anything, Starbucks could score points with customers and burnish its image as a socially conscious company.

This isn’t the first time the coffee chain is using its platform to send a political message. In the summer of 2011, Schultz also asked other CEOs and the public to stop making campaign contributions until politicians found a way to deal with a crisis over the debt ceiling that led to a downgrade in the country’s credit rating.

For the latest push, Starbucks is taking out an ad in the Washington Post on Thursday showing a cup with the words “Come Together” on it. (Read more here.)

Speaking of Hypocrisy and Why It Matters

Mark Shea, over at Catholic and Enjoying It, just put up a post that I have to share here. He links an article that we all need to read and then ponder.

Please, do NOT read this and despair! We do not, any of us, belong to the R or the D. We follow a Risen Savior.

The truth, even when it hurts, is the first step to changing things. Those of us who want to actually build a culture of life rather than just talk about it, need to know the truth. It will, as Jesus told us, set us free. In this instance, set us free to hold these people accountable.

Mark Shea’s post says in part:

And in Today’s Prolife Political Wife Beating News
September 25, 2012 By Mark Shea 5 Comments
House Republicans Pass Funding for Planned Parenthood, Obamacare and Regulation Forcing Catholics to Act Against Faith
They love you, baby. It’s just that, well, they work so *hard* for you and you keep making them angry with your stupid endless talk about the children and you wanting some respect. Can anybody blame them if they haul off and smack you now and then?
Here’s what you do, prolifer, according to the Current Wisdom: shut up about the whole prolife thing, let your Man in Congress *talk* about being prolife but stop hectoring him to go to the extreme of doing somethig about it. Smile for the cameras when they wave you over for the photo ops and, for heaven’s sake, try to lose some weight and not be such an *embarrassment* to your man! Do you *want* him to lose? He’s the only one that’s going to love a slug like you. So learn how to take a punch now and then and get back in line. A man can only put up with so much. (Read more here.)


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