GUEST COMMENTARY: Sequestration is no way to run a country

2013-03-01T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Sequestration is no way to run a countryBy Pete Visclosky nwitimes.com
March 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The episode of sequestration – the $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that take effect today – reminds us of what happens when legislators cease to legislate.

Sequestration was originally devised as an inducement to compromise – a mechanism so indiscriminate and devastating to our economic interests that it would compel Congress to finally enact a comprehensive, long-term solution to our nation’s fiscal challenges. Yet even this outrageous set of cuts was insufficient to form a compromise.

Consequences will be felt by families in Northwest Indiana and across the country. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates sequestration will cut economic growth in half for the remainder of 2013 and threaten up to 1.4 million jobs. Significant reductions in operating budgets for defense will threaten our military readiness. Americans can expect delays at the airports, due to furloughs of critical air traffic controllers who ensure our skies are safe, and nearly 2,270 fewer Indiana children will receive vaccines for common diseases.

I am frustrated that Congress lurches from crisis to crisis, with each side seeking to cast the outcome as the fault of the other for partisan political gain. This is no way to run a country. We have a national debt of over $16 trillion, and an increasingly competitive global economy demands that we make the strategic investments that will protect the jobs we already have and create new jobs in the future. Our challenges are too great for us to suffer from self-inflicted fiscal wounds. We must govern, invest, and lead while addressing our fiscal problems.

We must responsibly reduce federal spending, and I have been working to cut spending wherever possible. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I worked with my colleagues in both parties to make funding reductions. According to the Congressional Budget Office, we have already cut discretionary spending by $62 billion from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2012. We went line by line, evaluating each program on its value to our country, making cuts to programs that have lost their usefulness while making critical investments where needed.

I am also dismayed that we cannot decide how to fund the daily operation of the federal government. This isn’t a social policy issue that inflames the passions. It is deciding how to fund border security, food safety, veterans’ services, and other basic functions of our government. It is keeping the doors open at federal entities few could disagree with, like the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Weather Service, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

A truly balanced, comprehensive plan must responsibly reduce discretionary federal spending. It also must honestly address how best to secure the long-term viability of the other two-thirds of our government spending so the benefits earned by Social Security and Medicare recipients are preserved today and for the next generation. A comprehensive plan must also increase federal revenue by eliminating inequities in our nation’s tax code, that among other things require our local public safety officers to pay more of their income in taxes than hedge fund managers who in many instances make hundreds of millions of dollars annually. I have joined with a number of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance such a solution.

I assure you I will continue to urge my colleagues to act immediately to pass a comprehensive plan that puts our nation on the path to a fiscally-sustainable economic future. We must act now to send the signal that America’s leaders are serious about tackling the problems of our unacceptably high unemployment rate and our deficits and debt.

We have a country to run and a future to invest in, and I will continue to work as hard as possible on these twin endeavors.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., represents the 1st District. The opinions are the writer's.

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