On Sunday's Meet the Press, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) painted a rather grim picture of the days and weeks leading up to a government imposed sequester deadline, highlighted by gridlock and failures to compromise. He claimed House Republicans deplored the idea of raising revenues, particularly on the wealthy, as a means of paying down the deficit, saying, "we cannot tax our way out of this," after pointing out that President Obama saw his revenue increases when the country went over the cliff on January 1 and the Bush era tax cuts were allowed to expire. Senate Democrats, on the other hand, denounced any talk of cuts to vital entitlements and programs that would devastate an American workforce already on life support.
As we've all witnessed over the past week, the cuts were allowed to take place, adding a further financial burden on millions of strapped middle class workers and their families. This was the latest of a series of fiscal deadlines that Washington hung over a panicked population in the last two years, infuriating American workers who've seen cut after cut decrease their pay and standard of living. As legislators appear helpless to stem the tide of economic hemorrhaging, the American people demand to know when the rest of this country, including Washington, will share the continued sacrifice along with them.
Adding further insult to injury, in the midst of spending cuts and further benefit reductions, reports have come to light pointing to continued Washington excess in the aftermath of the sequester meltdown. Stories of government funded portraits for outgoing cabinet members (some costing more than $60,000), expensive dinner outings on Capitol Hill, and even continued pay raises for members of Congress have left millions wondering why Washington has excused itself from any sacrificing. There's no doubt that the pie is shrinking. It's possible the economic turmoil may be just the beginning of future setbacks for the country, even globally as parts of Europe are still reeling from massive recessions. But thus far, Washington has produced no remedy void of pain for the average constituent, highlighting whether or not our legislators truly know the burden they place on the public every time they fail at their duties.
Many conservatives have attempted to soften the blow by describing the intent of their efforts to cap spending, speaking of the burden we place on future generations as a result of floating mounting debt and deficits. The clear message is that someone has to suffer to get us out of this mess, but who? To answer this question is to consider who has been allowed to avoid cutbacks and retribution for their part in the recession. It's extremely clear that the big banks and Wall Street have been allowed to evade major prosecution for their role in imploding the housing market in the wake of a culture of deception and risk taking, which led to an involuntary taxpayer bailout to the tune of $800 billion in 2008.
Neither has any form of accountability or legality come across former figures of the Bush administration, which arguably deceived the American people into a costly foreign war, totaling some amount of dollars in the trillions. And of course, factoring into the mix, are multiple corporations who've repeatedly paid close to nothing in taxes at a time when middle class Americans are being nickel and dimed to their breaking point, not to mention numerous billionaires harboring offshore tax havens, evading the IRS for years. But perhaps the most hypocritical of violators is the legislative population of Washington D.C., who's succeeded only at chronic gridlock, leaving no results, but never sacrificing their pay or benefits, and at times, appearing "immune to the cost of things" …which brings us back to the pie.
Perhaps times like these reveal the pie is divided unevenly. One could argue, because of fewer middle class jobs and rising costs of living, it's nearly impossible to get ahead if you are of a certain income level. It's a bad economy, and naturally, the lower people on the totem pole always suffer. But before Washington decided to let the deadline go last Friday, and enact painful cuts to an already battered middle class, should they not have considered a sacrifice of their own? Perhaps they should have forced themselves to meetings with the opposite party before the eleventh hour and vowed to avoid the cuts at all cost. Perhaps they should have vowed to stop giving a break to CEOs who've averted their fair share in taxes at a time of such disparity. Perhaps they should have taken steps to ensure vital programs, like those depended on by the most economically burdened, were off limits regardless of the outcome of their deliberations.
Congress, if there's one message you could decipher from this sequester meltdown it's this: the cuts start with you. You created this culture of unregulated and excess oriented insanity that ultimately led to mortgage deception, corporate tax evasion, big spending on everything but ensuring our economy was as strong as its hardest workers. Stop asking the people who do their jobs day in and day out to receive less and less for it, while you retain all the comforts that come with your positions. The only true comfort you could have is the knowledge that this country is working for everybody.