The first wager was that before the start of 2013, Republicans and Democrats in Washington could find compromise on the federal budget. With the sword of sweeping mandatory budget cuts hanging over their heads, the odds said, surely a Democratic president and Republican leaders in the House and Senate will find a way to work things out.
Each party had its own side bets. Democrats figured the public would feel the pain of the so-called sequester cuts and put the blame on Republicans and their “Party of No” reputation. For Republicans, if the sequester kicked in, then the budget cuts, some of which would be unpopular, couldn’t be solely pinned on them.
The sequester deadline is well past us, and it turns out Americans are the big losers.
The $1.2 billion in automatic cuts has been quietly taking its toll for months. This week, unpaid furloughs commenced at the Anniston Army Depot, an outcome being repeated at Department of Defense facilities across the country. Other cuts — from research grants to Social Security office staffing to the number of Occupational Health and Safety Administration inspections — have slipped across the United States like a creeping fog.
Depot furloughs will hurt the local economy. It’s the same everywhere, this slow bleeding of thousands of tiny cuts. When faced with this crisis, partisans will act as they always do — they’ll seek to work the political angles, shifting blame to the other side. Yet, neither side seems capable of acting in a way that settles on a long-term solution.