Sequestration: “Dr. Strangelove” and The Death of a Thousand Cuts!
By: Eugene Elander
With exquisite timing, during these final stages leading up to our pending federal Sequestration self-inflicted disaster, the Cold War’s notorious movie “Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” has been airing on Blockbuster TV. In that bizarre film, a few deranged generals and a mad scientist start World War III through evading, avoiding, and destroying all of the safeguards against nuclear war, in an act of self-immolation which, unfortunately, takes the world with them. Much the same process has emerged during the countdown to a Sequestration disaster of epic proportions. In the present circumstances, however, America will suffer “the death of a thousand cuts” rather than a nuclear disaster.
Watching the Sequestration Waltz play out in this final week before the event occurs, nearly all observable effort is being placed on the usual blamesmanship between Republicans in Congress and the President in the White House. It makes little real difference which side has done more to cause this pending disaster, which will essentially shut down the Federal government — with consequences including the vast reduction of most vital government services, from air traffic control to the safety inspection of our food supply to the provision of essential funding to state and local governments. What is obviously needed is a sensible compromise between the Democratic requirement for both revenue increases and measured spending cuts, and the Republican determination that only spending cuts occur, with no tax increases on anyone — not even on any giant corporations which have essentially escaped meaningful taxation for decades.
Sadly, just as there was no possibility of compromise over all-out nuclear war in “Dr. Strangelove,” there appears to be zero willingness on the part of our two major political parties to compromise to avoid this Sequestration disaster. As the rhetoric becomes more and more heated, while the countdown to fiscal armageddon continues, leaders of both parties pour gasoline on the Sequestration fire in order to score futile political points against the opposition. Instead of reasoned debate, what America observes is essentially on the level of a third-grade food fight in the school cafeteria — a fight which nobody is going to win!
There are only a few days left to avoid so-called Sequestration, which would better be termed: The Death of a Thousand Cuts. The irony here is that, at the time when we were approaching the Federal debt limit at the end of 2011, Sequestration was nor really proposed as any sort of remedy. Rather, it was proposed as being so awful that our federal government would never, ever let it occur — the idea then was that we would be forced to solve our fiscal problems by this Sword of Damocles hanging over us. Whoever came up with that high-risk approach (and there are numerous versions of just how this faulty concept emerged) failed to understand the deep enmity between our political parties.
This enmity is nothing very new; not long after President Obama was elected to his first term, such Republican leaders as Senator Mitch McConnell stated publicly and frequently that the main goal for their party should be to block Obama from re-election while preventing any of his initiatives, such as what has come to be known as Obamacare, from passing in Congress. There is, however, a very significant difference between the two Parties on the matter of Sequestration. While the Republicans seem willing to go to any extreme in damaging the nation if they think it will damage our President, the Democrats continue to propose reasonable and balanced alternatives to a federal government shutdown. Now, America is waiting for those alternatives to be taken seriously.
Those proposals, however, seem to fall on very deaf ears and very blind eyes across the Congressional aisle. Yes, there is plenty of blame to go around — and, yes, it does indeed take “two to tango.” Still we must recognize that there is one major difference here: the Democrats devoutly seek to save America from a fiscal disaster, while the present crop of Congressional Republicans seem perfectly willing to impose The Death of a Thousand Cuts, Sequestration, as they believe it will damage their opponents more than themselves. Dr. Strangelove would indeed have understood.