SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

February 28, 2013

Our view: Sequester, here we go

The budget cuts in a debt-limit deal two years ago were designed to be so distasteful they would force Republicans and Democrats to compromise.

The deal established a supercommittee, charged with recommending $1.2 trillion in savings or additional revenue to avoid automatic spending cuts for both defense and domestic programs.

As the clock ticked down toward the November 2011 deadline, though, supercommittee members had effectively thrown up their hands, and each side was blaming the other for the stalemate.

No one, of course, was really surprised.

The sad thing is that gridlock is what we’ve all come to expect from Congress. That’s the reason the institution’s approval rating now rests in the single digits.

What was also predictable was that lawmakers would try to wriggle out of the booby trap they set for themselves. Even as the clock ticked toward the deadline, Republicans were looking for ways to stave off the nearly $500 billion in defense cuts while Democrats were insisting they would fight off any effort to take a larger chunk out of domestic programs.

The measure calls for cuts of about $85 billion a year divided equally between defense and domestic programs. The law exempts Social Security, Medicaid and programs for veterans and the poor. It also limits Medicare to a 2 percent reduction. Education, agriculture and environmental programs would be faced with cuts of around 8 percent.

Americans have watched this scene play out with resignation, but what the situation really demands is a sense of outrage.

Continuing to fill Congress with individuals who refuse to meet in the middle will get us nothing but more partisan bickering.

Voters need to elect lawmakers who understand the need for give-and-take, who recognize that to get something you often have to be willing to give something up.

That concept seems lost on today’s senators and representatives.

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