Dysfunction is alive and well in Washington while the economy limps along, federal workers feel like pawns, and Americans grow weary of obstructionist politicians.
Extremists like Senator Ted Cruz have made it clear that they think nothing of shutting down the government, forcing the federal government to default on its debt and sinking the world’s greatest economy if they don’t get their way. That’s not governing – that’s hostage-taking. To make matters worse, if that is even possible, Senator Cruz’s antics get us away from dealing with the automatic funding cuts that are set to take a another whack at federal workers, slash critical programs for the poor and elderly and cut transportation investments that are needed to fuel our economy.
The politicians call these cuts the “sequester,” which is typical Washington-speak. Let’s call them what they really are: a strategy by too many in the GOP hell-bent on slashing and burning government programs. Instead of demanding a tax code that doesn’t favor the super wealthy and finding a responsible way to address our fiscal challenges, these politicians want to impose arbitrary and damaging cuts and make this result the “new normal.”
So, once again, our nation’s mobility – and our economy – is at risk.
We already know the plot of this movie – thousands furloughed, programs shelved, job investments idled and the working poor and the elderly put at risk. And now, what is in the sequel if Congress and the President fail to act:
- FAA employees will be furloughed and key programs such as the next generation air traffic system (NextGen) will be on the chopping block again. The result? Thousands of flights delayed or cancelled.
- The Maritime Security Program (MSP), which assures our military sealift capacity, will be slashed further at the expense of national security and U.S. maritime jobs.
- The Federal Transit Administration will suspend reimbursements to state agencies for transit construction projects [Translation: job cuts], and agency staff will be unable to carry out environmental reviews for advancing projects.
- The Federal Railroad Administration will have to cut key personnel, cut safety operations and slash Amtrak capital improvements. The result? Commuters and travelers will suffer as Amtrak improvements will be slowed.
- At the Transportation Security Administration, airport security screeners will face elimination of overtime and a hiring freeze followed by possible furloughs, which would result in longer wait times and more chaos for air travelers.
Unfortunately some Republicans have made it clear that, for them, sequestration is the “new normal.” Americans know better. Not only has austerity hurt workers’ wages and retirements, as well as support for the unemployed, it is also squeezing education, health care, medical research, housing and services for seniors, and infrastructure job investments.
As for the economy, sequestration has harmed growth and consumer spending. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that undoing sequestration could add 1.6 million jobs and as much as 1.2 percent to GDP. Who’s against that? Apparently, Senator Cruz and his minions.
Americans reject this new normal. They just want the people they elect to set things right, stop scapegoating federal workers and get on with the work of rebuilding America and putting people back to work.