Jun 13, 2013 - Issue 520

 BlackCommentator.com: Sequestration Just Another Word for “Cut People Adrift” - Solidarity America - By John Funiciello - BC Columnist

A 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 rich.

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.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Click here to contact Mr. Funiciello.