dictionary definition of sequestration says that sequestration is “the
action of taking legal possession of assets until a debt has been paid
or other claims have been met.” It sounds simple, but the way it is
being used in Washington masks what is being done in the name of
“saving” the country from its wild-spending self.
It is just another in a long line of actions by the politicians and
bureaucrats in charge to make your government smaller and to make sure
that it will only be allowed to do less and less to provide for the
general welfare. And, the general welfare is one of the important
functions of government, according to the Constitution.
Often enough, we are told that there is “gridlock in Washington,” and
that’s the reason nothing is being done to solve our problems, but it’s
worth taking another look at the word and what happens as a result of
that word. It is not truly gridlock at all, but a continuing effort by
Republicans and others on the right to bring government to its knees,
along with the feeble efforts of the Democrats to save what remains of
New Deal policies and programs.
But, before our eyes, the programs benefiting
people, developed over generations, have been hacked and chopped until
they are barely recognizable. What has been cut is not enough for them,
so the cutters want more and the “sequester” has been just the
opportunity to make further deep cuts in things like Medicaid,
education, low-cost housing, job creation, and assistance like food
stamps (a $4 billion cut proposed for food stamps in the Farm Bill,
just this week).
There is some question about who coined the term “sequester,” and some
say it was the Obama White House, but the term goes back farther than
that, at least back to the mid-1980s, when a senator from Texas named
Phil Gramm put a claim on the word. Earlier this year, the Huffington
Post said of Gramm, he “dismantled the Glass-Steagall Act and made sure
complex derivatives went largely unregulated, setting the stage for the
financial crisis. Also on his dubious record of achievement was the
idea of ‘sequestration,’ or the use of harsh, automatic spending cuts
to force policy makers to pass budget laws.”
Proud of his accomplishments in releasing the dogs of finance, he noted
that not much damage has been done by any sequester…he didn’t have to
suffer the consequences. The country still stood and business continued
as usual, according to his analysis. Gramm, though, is the man who,
when he was asked why he routinely supported legislation that benefited
the rich and powerful, but not the poor, replied that it was because no
poor person had ever given him a job. In a sentence, he explained his
animus toward working men and women and his lifelong deference to the
But, years ago, the late Lars-Erik Nelson nailed Gramm in a brilliant
newspaper column, which pointed out that, starting way back to the time
of FDR, Gramm was a beneficiary of the work of the many. He pointed out
that Gramm had his living standard raised by the New Deal’s minimum
wage law, because his mother was a low-wage worker, he went to public
schools, he graduated from a public university, he taught at a public
university, and then he became a politician. Throughout his entire
life, Nelson pointed out, Gramm had “had a job” paid for by poor people
or, at least, working people.
Although Gramm is gone from the Congress, there are still too many who
carry his hostility toward poor people and working people. From that
attitude, we have the sequester and we have an unremitting effort to
further slash social programs, in favor of more tax cuts for Corporate
America and the rich. These are the politicians who believe there is
such a thing as “the deserving poor.” They don’t give a hint who might
qualify, because they really believe that there are few to no deserving
poor, so programs that provide for them could be cut or eliminated.
From time to time, we talk about hunger, but there is no broad debate
in Congress or elsewhere, about the reason that 50 million Americans
are either hungry or are experiencing what is called food insecurity.
That is, a family may have eaten today, but they literally don’t know
where their next meal is coming from. A large percentage of those
hungry or food insecure families are single mothers with one or two
children. Mostly, it is the children who suffer the most, since their
bodies need good nutrition to grow straight and strong and to ensure
proper brain development.
A young mother with two children is shown in a recent documentary, “A
Place at the Table,” as she searches for work that might lead to a good
job. Though it is not much, she gets some of the help that is
available. Her children are still hungry. Then, she finally gets a
fulltime job. The result? She makes a few dollars more than is allowed
for the assistance program, so she is cut off. Her children are still
hungry, and she is working full time. Who pays for childcare? Who pays
for a good diet? Children do not learn when they are hungry. How are
her children to learn? Isn’t anybody responsible to see how these
programs are working, or if they are working?
These are the kinds of programs that are cut in the time of sequester.
The social programs are the “assets” of a nation and the politicians,
in a time of austerity, are taking “legal possession” of those assets
and, in this case, they are eliminating them or reducing them, so they
do very few people any good.
Decision makers are looking at the social “assets” as something to be
seized as if the 50 million Americans who are hungry or are food
insecure are debtors and something has to be done to teach them a
lesson. There are no debtors’ prisons yet, so the next best thing is to
take away social programs and that will help them learn how important
it is not to be poor.
Gramm and others like him in and around Congress have taken legal
possession of the social assets, so that their true masters, the
corporations and the rich, will get a continuous flow of tax cuts and
subsidies, which have filled their pockets for the past half century.
Among those beneficiaries of the “sequester”
are those in the military-industrial complex, the sinkhole of taxpayer
money, year after year. The military budget takes up some 58 percent of
the money that comes into Washington. Committees in charge of the
budget in both houses of Congress will continue to preach austerity,
cut programs that might make the nation’s people healthier and
stronger, and all the while they are funneling money into the maw of
the military and to the giant corporations of finance and retailing. No
one should be surprised, because they see the nation as a big business
and they try to handle it that way. If there are budget or financial
problems, find the culprits and make them pay and take “legal
possession of the assets,” and that’s what they are doing.
Through the “sequester,” they are taking care of their very rich
friends and their other friends, the corporations. It’s why the word
sequester rolls so easily off their tongues. On a grand scale, they are
managing the business called the U.S.A., as good merchants do.