The Sequester and Saturday Night Live

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Upon reading news on the sequester, you might not know whether to laugh or cry. There have been so many predictions, so much name-calling and finger pointing. I am not sure who to believe.

Two items stood out to me in a CBS News article on the sequester. First, according to the article, “Most entitlement programs are exempt.” The article goes on to say, “During the negotiations that produced the sequester, Democrats successfully pushed to exempt most forms of politically sensitive entitlement spending from the automatic cuts. As a result, Social Security, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, unemployment insurance, and food stamps will not see any reduction in funding. Medicare beneficiaries were also spared the axe, while Medicare providers will see only a 2 percent reduction in payments. Mr. Obama’s healthcare bill, some recall, also opted to slash payments to Medicare providers in lieu of targeting beneficiaries.” If correct, you might find this news to be a sign of relief, especially if you are one of the beneficiaries of these various programs.

Second, the article raises the question: does the sequester, as problematic as across the board cuts is, provide “an opportunity to target wasteful spending?” As stated in the article, some Republicans are grateful that, while problematic, the sequester “has begun a conversation” on what they take to be wasteful spending. Still, why couldn’t our federal government have engaged in constructive conversation earlier on what is wasteful as well as necessary spending and avoided the sequester in the first place?

It’s hard not to laugh and cry at the same time, when observing how our government is handling this crisis. It gets even worse, when you find that our nation’s leaders don’t necessarily know what to make of the sequester. According to NBC News, House speaker John Boehner has claimed that he doesn’t believe anyone quite knows how to resolve the sequester, if it’s going to hurt the economy, or how it will work.

Given that many people don’t know whether to laugh or cry over the sequester, is it any wonder that Saturday Night Live has gotten involved in the act?  According to a Saturday Night Live skit, Mrs. Obama will only do four television appearances a week from now on (down from seventy-five); air traffic control and border control will be severely impacted in comic if not cosmic proportions; astronauts will no longer have glass shields in their space helmets; three monkeys will be fired from the national zoo in Washington, D. C. and let loose on the streets of the nation’s capitol where they will wreak havoc; the list goes on.

Comic relief may be in order. But there is no time for finger pointing and hand-wringing. Whatever direction the conversation takes, the Democrats and Republicans will need to resolve their internal conflicts and work together to move us out of this mess. Inaction never leads to good governance. For our part, we will all need to learn to work harder together as citizens. The worst thing that can happen is for us to sequester ourselves from our nation’s problems and look out only for ourselves or our kind of people. We will need to make sure that whichever direction the conversation takes, we will advocate for those most disadvantaged; for example, cuts in public education will likely affect the most vulnerable student populations the most. Though the sequester will likely impact public education broadly, those who are more well to do can adjust more readily and provide other educational opportunities for their children. The poor seldom if ever have lobbyists in large part because they lack the necessary resources. How equitable is that in a democracy?

There is nothing funny about a country, whose more well-to-do citizens care only for themselves and who leave the most vulnerable to fend for themselves. Not only is there nothing funny about such inaction and indifference, but also there is nothing smart about it either: if we want to reduce poverty and build the economy (which everyone should affirm), we need to invest in the poor to benefit them and also so that they can help build our economy and help heal our nation.




“Blessed are the pure in heart”—not the double-minded and those with cloudy vision
Lincoln’s Birthday, Black History and Church Growth
Fire Fighting and Religious Conflicts
Mandate Vaccinations for Poor Communication and Fear of the Unknown
About Paul Louis Metzger

Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including "Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths" and "Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church." These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.

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  • Mike James

    Dr. Metzger, I want to put before you a problem that has been bugging me since I worked with this family last year. There is a woman in this city who was married for a relatively short time before her husband died of an unknown cause. She went on Welfare, and has drawn on it for at least ten years. During those years, she had six more children by at least four different fathers, two of those children that I worked with and at least one more that one of my colleagues.
    She learned to draw everything off of the system that she could and that included the church. She has done what she had needed to be involved in the church, which feeds her and her family at least once per week. I give her credit that in she has tried to dig herself out of this hole in the last few years, and that is good. But in spite of this, she has no control of her family. One of her four daughters was one of the kids that I worked with and in the eight weeks that I was been with them, she was arrested twice and incarcerated. And in the course of my studies, she was reunited with her boyfriend who wanted to take no responsibility for the child that he fathered. Our contract with this family ended in May, and then one month later, I encountered this woman again, and she had given birth to a seventh child out of wedlock, her second with this man.
    How do you answer to this? This infuriates me, as this type of behavior also infuriates several of my friends. We pay our taxes into a system that not only condones but endorses this type of this type of behavior. And not only that, but we make things like food stamps too easy to get and not restricted enough on what you can use them on. We spend billions of dollars to indoctrinate our children on certain sets of values which infuriate the heart of God including Gaia-worship (albeit indirectly) and open sexuality. And we refuse to do anything to help bring more water to people who need it the most-including people that I call friends who work in agriculture. We do nothing to encourage new business-we do so only to get their tax money, and to pay back favors done for the President-and everything to continue to glut the public sector, and gorge it with the hard-earned wages of taxpayers, many of whom have invested many, many hours of hard work at honest jobs to build their dreams (and the current President had the nerve to say “you didn’t do that”, even to the neglect of their families. We can no longer freely and openly preach the Gospel out of fear that it will branded by the enemies of the Church as “hate speech”. We encourage our young people not to hope and to dream of building empires, as we did in the past-we are now encouraging them to openly mock Christian values and to follow in the footsteps of their false gods in the entertainment industry and play video games.
    Dr. Metzger, how do you answer this? The way that I see it is that $85 Billion is not that much money, especially when you are looking at a potential national debt of $30 Trillion by 2016. Cuts to the schools are not as much as you think you will be under the current Sequester, and schools can very easily endure this if they change their thinking in regards to certain areas, especially in administration (I know-I was a teacher).
    We can afford cuts to public transportation in many places-Here in California, if we were to give up on the idea of building a high-speed rail system that has already cost us billions without a single spade of earth being turned. And what about the problem of the illegal aliens, that are costing us billions of dollars every year to take care of them? I know that this is only the beginning, but if this is allowed to go on, we will be forced to cut even more deeply, and then people will REALLY begin to hurt.
    All that is happening right now is that the President is announcing minor cuts, which frankly, to me is like a small child who has skinned his knee or had his little feelings hurt and wants the world to know it by screaming his head off for comfort. We have to cut, in many cases deeply, and we have to cut NOW. WE will soon see the retirement age raised from 65 to 72 to draw Social Security. We will no longer have the liberty to support families which were created for and are now supported by public funds that were created so they can live off of Welfare and AFDC, like the one that I mentioned at the start. It will most likely cost me my job, as we are a subcontractor to school districts. It will mean that people in certain parts of the country will have to see funding cuts to highway projects and have to cope with long commutes. It will mean that the government will no longer be able to support environmental projects, and that people will have to make do with less than crystal-clear water, as they do now in other countries. We may have to go to our knees and beg for God’s Mercy, as we have done in the past. But we can live with it, as we have in the past, and we will learn to cope. And maybe, just maybe men will be allowed once again to dream…
    I am going to post this link on my Facebook(tm) page so that my friends in the private sector can respond to it. However, I added these comments after I posted it. Get ready…

  • Hope

    The sequester is not just affecting programs, but every household of a government employee. We are getting 20% in pay-cut. We are single-income household with a school age child. 20% is HUGE. Did the elected officials who voted for the sequester also get 20% pay-cuts? Otherwise they are hypocrites