Monday, August 12, 2013

Vacation Time

(Editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman / Sacramento Bee (August 6, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

So, members of the 113th Congress left Washington DC for their 5-week summer break.  They were able to fly home (or wherever) because one of the few things they exempted from the sequester cuts was air flights.

Michael Hiltzig took notice of that fact and others in his latest column.

What has been Washington's remedy for an economy that plainly needs another shot of fiscal stimulus? The automated austerity regime known as the sequester, a package of budget cuts cynically designed to fall heaviest on our most vulnerable communities — the penniless, the disabled, the homeless and the very young. True, the sequester caused an early crisis in air travel, when it seemed that enforced furloughs of air traffic controllers would bollix up flight schedules. Congress remedied that provision, but quick. ...

The product of a political culture in which intransigence is held up as the highest form of statesmanship, the sequester is policy designed to enshrine congressional incompetence into law.

It was a gun Congress held to its own head, designed to be so lethal that our lawmakers wouldn't dare to pull the trigger, the required across-the-board budget cuts being so draconian that Congress would have no option other than to reach agreement on a more measured response. No one told the trigger finger. So as of March 1, budget cuts totaling $85 billion this year alone went into effect. ...

In the first place, the cuts will shave as much as 1.2% off gross domestic product — after inflation — through this year and next, according to the Congressional Budget Office. They'll cost as many as 1.6 million jobs over that time frame, the CBO says. That's not counting the damage that has occurred since March 1.

By the way, none of that damage affects members of Congress personally. Their salaries aren't cut by the sequester. For reference, rank-and-file senators and congressmen touch $174,000 annually, not including the millions in the agriculture subsidies they can vote for their own family farms. Take a bow, Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale)!

The people who are affected reside mostly at the other end of the income scale — for example, people dependent on public housing assistance. ...

So what was Congress up to in the weeks before it went on vacation? The House passed a dead-on-arrival measure repealing the Affordable Care Act (which of course benefits lower-income Americans) for the 40th time. The lawmakers debated a bill, introduced by the majestically useless Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), to name all coastal waters out to the U.S. 200-mile jurisdictional limit after Ronald Reagan.

All the rest has been gridlock, grandstanding and gutter politics.
There's some debate over whether this Congress has been the worst in history or merely one of the bottom two, but either way it's bad enough. For this they deserve a vacation that the average European would envy?   [Emphasis added]

Not only was Section 8 Housing Assistance cut out, so was SNAP, the first time the food aid program was separated from the Farm bill.  It's just so easy to kick the poor our congress critters can't resist.  And that leads to Hiltzig's concluding thought:

The test of a civilized society is that it looks out for its neediest members. With this Congress in place, we're failing that test.

The bastards.

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