Carol Shea-Porter: Sequester Will Kill Us All, Etc., Etc.

Carol Shea-Porter My own CongressCritter and perpetual toothache, Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01), pens an occasional column to the Little People Back Home, i.e. me, and perhaps you. I've really developed an unhealthy fascination with her thought processes and writing skills.

Her latest effort is titled "Another call for compromise" and it appears at her government-provided website. Eventually, residents of NH01 may see it as an op-ed in their local papers.

So (once again) let's take a look at Carol's column! Carol's (appropriately) on the left with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my comments are on the right.

The sequester went into place March 1, the day after the House of Representatives adjourned and members of Congress went back to their districts. Constituents, regardless of how they felt about the sequester, were upset that Congress was leaving Washington, D.C. in the middle of still another crisis, and I agree. I voted to stay in Washington until we could work something out, but the majority controls the voting schedule, as well as which bills go to the floor, and all committee hearings. When Democrats were in charge, they made those decisions. Now, Republicans are in charge of the House of Representatives, and they call the shots. There is always tension over this, but it is far more intense recently. Carol cries "crisis", and seems more than a little upset that not enough people share her Sense of Impending Doom. In last month's column, she literally warned us: "The Sky is Falling". Her preferred mode of operation is to panic, and ram through ill-considered legislation.

Now, instead of being sheepish about her alarmism, she's griping vaguely about not being able to "stay in Washington until we could work something out."

Carol, you had plenty of time to "work something out". In fact, you still do. Stop pointing fingers. It's not an attractive quality.

Even the schedule has become a fight. This week, there was one vote Monday. There were two simple votes Tuesday: one to require that annual budget submissions of the president to Congress provide an estimate of the cost per taxpayer of the deficit, and one to stop tobacco smuggling in the Territories. It took a total of twenty minutes. Wednesday, there is supposed to be a vote on a spending bill. We were going to vote Thursday, but votes have been cancelled. So, Congress will go home again Wednesday afternoon, not returning until next Tuesday night. Is this any way to run a government? Without a more convincing argument, I'd have to say: well, sure. It's one way to run a government. Is there anything that absolutely needs to be legislated on right now? I'm sure if there were, we'd know about it.

Missing from Carol's finger-pointing is President Obama's blowing the legal deadline for submitting his FY2014 budget. It was due February 4; an anonymous "administration official" now says… uh, yeah, we might get it out by April 8 or so. ("It's hard! There's math!")

But Obama did manage to fill in an NCAA bracket in his spare time. Truth be told, he almost certainly did a better job on that than he will on the budget.

To clear up possible confusion: Carol's column is dated March 15, but when she says "this week", she's actually referring to the week before that. The vote on HR 338, the "Stop Tobacco Smuggling in the Territories Act of 2013" occurred on March 5. Its stated purpose: "Amends the federal criminal code to include American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam in the definition of "state" for purposes of provisions prohibiting trafficking in contraband cigarettes and smokeless tobacco."

So thank goodness it passed on a 421-5 vote. At last the Samoans will be free from the scourge of counterfeit smokeless tobacco.

The House has had 31 roll-call votes since then. Is that enough voting for Carol?

People are clearly not happy with the way government is being run. Duh.
I received a high volume of calls and letters about the sequester. Most people who contacted me wanted the sequester stopped, because they don’t want drastic cuts to domestic programs and defense, and they really don’t want to see workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard furloughed. People who benefit from federal government spending do not like spending cuts. Again, duh.
Some Granite Staters wanted to keep the sequester, because they said it is the only way to force spending cuts, and some were even happy that half of the across-the-board cuts were to the defense budget and half were to domestic programs. Carol seems slightly incredulous that "some Granite Staters" hold a contrary opinion to hers.

I, on the other hand, am slightly incredulous that people with contrary opinions are bothering to contact Carol at all. Based on past data, the chances of her voting against her party leadership are roughly 2-3%. It's not as if she's likely to be persuaded by reasoned argument.

Many wondered why the two parties can’t compromise. I explained that Democrats, who wanted a mixture of cuts and revenue (by closing loopholes such as oil, sugar, and agricultural subsidies, and by placing a minimum tax on millionaires) couldn’t get an amendment, and Republican leadership wants only cuts. Translation: by insisting on tax increases (over and above the $620 Billion increase approved just a few months ago), Democrats prevented any hope of a "more intelligent" compromise on spending cuts. Instead, we got the meat-ax approach of the sequester. Sigh. Fine.
That is the basic problem in both the House and the Senate. Republican leadership wants only cuts to reduce the debt and Democrats want a mixture of cuts and revenue to reduce the debt. That is a fundamental difference that is hard to get around. I know that there are Republicans who mostly disagree with the Democrats’ formula but are willing to see some revenue increases. However, they are the rank and file. What we see here now is a battle of wills between conservative Republicans and moderate Republicans, and then between Republican leaders and Democrats. I would not be surprised that there are GOP wobblers who might be gulled into supporting tax increases in return for illusory promises about spending cuts at some point in the future.

But are there no moderate Democrats that might break with their party leadership on taxes? Never you mind: Carol's not one of those, and acknowledging their existence might complicate the finger-pointing.

I believe the sequester is damaging to defense and domestic programs because cuts are too deep and untargeted. I do believe our nation’s economists, two-thirds of whom state that the forced austerity from the sequester will slow down our economy. I have listened as the Department of Defense has pleaded to end the sequester and target cutbacks that make sense, and as others have talked about furloughs and cuts to Head Start and Meals on Wheels. What will happen to families who need help for child care expenses or rely on student work-study programs to help pay for college? What about medical research and nutrition programs, etc., etc.? "Etc., etc.?"

If the idea is to send us into panic, this is not effective writing.

"We've traced that call. It's coming from another room inside the house, etc. etc."

See? Doesn't work as well.

To see why I don't take this as seriously as Carol wishes I would, browse the Google results for sequester fear mongering.

There are savings to be found, of course. There is waste to cut. There is duplication to eliminate. There is sacrifice required because there is a debt to reduce. This is Carol's ritual nod to vague spending cuts. I bet you can guess the very next word in her column…

But there is still good work to be done. There is still a bridge to replace, a child to educate, a senior to visit with a hot meal. There is still a cure to be discovered, a train or airport to run, a food shipment to inspect. There is still a government to run. And compromise is the only way to get there.

You guessed right: the next word was "but". Gold star for you.

When it comes to spending Other People's Money, Carol sees nothing but "good work to be done". She acknowledges no limit in diverting cash from taxpayer's wallets into funds to be dispensed at her discretion. Her true motto is: "Never Enough".


Last Modified 2014-12-05 11:36 AM EST