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Susan Page

A Dumb Way To Trim The Budget

Here’s a multiple-choice question: What is sequestration?

A) A restriction on how many sequins can legally be sewn onto a pageant gown.

B) A study of equestrians who neuter horses underwater.

C) A sailing program for wayward youth.

D) The permanent cancellation of budgetary resources by a uniform percentage applied to all programs, projects and activities within a budget account.

The answer is D, but if you picked A, B or C, polls show you are among 82 percent of Americans who are pretty clueless about the government’s March 1 imposition of “sequestration.”

The word sequester isn’t new. We sequester (isolate) juries during long, high-profile trials. But when the government takes control of a perfectly good word that everyone’s cool with, it can turn into something pretty smarmy.

Two weeks ago I was in the D.C. area to visit our granddaughters, Emma and Charlotte. It was Emma’s fifth birthday, and her party was at the bowling alley with 16 5-year-olds attending.

Yes, bowling alley, and no, they were not sequestered. Their little germ-incubating hands were picking up small bowling balls and rolling them down an ingenious ramp device in and among the general bowling public. This is because their parents were responsible for them not to dart down the lane or drop their ball on another’s foot.

“Responsible” is the key word. I explain the government’s budget-cutting sequestration using a simple parable (not a true story):

My husband and I can’t stop spending money we don’t have. Our debt is high, but we keep on racking up a higher balance on our Visa cards (I like shoes). So, we come up with a plan sure to break us of our bad

habit. We each choose a possession we love. Then we sign a binding agreement that if we don’t cut up our credit cards by X date, an agency will come and take that possession away.

So I choose Lucy, our female yellow Lab, and he chooses Rufus, her brother. They’re 12. The time draws closer, but spending continues, then because neither of us acts responsibly, on X date the Hawaiian Humane Society comes to take away our beloved dogs. It was never meant to happen, we cry. We blame each other. It’s your fault. No, it’s yours. And we each try to garner sympathy. I say Lucy protected our house and he says Rufus sat close and gave comfort. But it was done.

The idea of sequestration was dumb. The president himself said so. But after flying across the land blaming Republicans, on Feb. 12 his press secretary Jay Carney admitted, “the sequester was one of the ideas, yes, put forward, yes, by the president’s team.”

It was signed into law by him and by Congress, which also claimed it was dumb. So, defense programs (aka Lucy) and social programs (aka Rufus) will be cut by $85 billion this year, and not in a rational way.

Bottom line: A president who doesn’t lead leaves a vacuum.

A Congress – Democrats and Republicans – that fails to act responsibly with money leaves a void.

We responsible ones who must lead ourselves cut up our credit cards long ago. Must we still pay for the irresponsibility of others?

Current polls show that most Americans want spending cuts but not to defense (ABC news poll March 6: 61 percent broadly support idea of sequester cuts – but not to defense).

I say sequester Congress and the president in downtown D.C.’s Verizon Center (not during Wizard games) without water, food or cell phones, lock the doors and release them only when they deal with our more than $16 trillion debt, $3.6 trillion in yearly spending, and tackle entitlement programs. Also, ground Air Force One for awhile. No more “Nanny nanny boo boo” speeches. Leave that to the 5-year-olds.

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