The Sequester in Ohio

Last week, I discussed the blame game in Washington regarding “budget sequestration”; due to hit the economy on March 1, 2013. Democrats have compromised a great deal, officially and unofficially, putting pet projects on the table. Republicans has refused to move an inch. With just days to go before the budget ax falls, I will detail some of the states that will be hit the hardest in 2013.

The most appropriate place to start is Ohio. The state stands to take an average across-the-board hit in this round of budget slashing, but the state’s size and political importance merits extra discussion.

First, Ohio is a very large economy in its own right. Ohio would rank as the 20th largest economy in the world if it were ranked alongside other countries. If Ohio takes a hit, the entire country will feel it.

Second, Ohio is widely considered the most important state in presidential politics. During the final week of the 2012 Election nearly 99 percent of television and radio advertizing time in Ohio’s three largest cities was purchased by political campaigns. Even with a dwindling population the state still dominates the landscape of the Electoral College; and no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio.

Knowing these facts, it seems strange that House Speaker John Boehner (OH-8) has done so little to avoid letting devastating cuts hit his home state. At a time when the national and statewide economies are barely staying above water the last thing Ohioans need are draconian budget cuts that will furlough federal employees, cut benefits from public workers, and force thousands into unemployment. Speaker Boehner is right to chastise the ongoing federal deficit, but taking out his frustration on his home state is not the answer.

On Monday, the White House released individual reports on how this round of budget cuts will hurt each of this nation’s fifty states. The facts for Ohio are fairly stark. Education cuts will be the most painful, with teachers, students, and disabled children set to take the fall for Washington’s budget intransigence. Funds will also be cut to military bases, domestic abuse services and food aide for seniors.

This was never the intent, nor the purpose, of sequestration. Yet here we stand. The so-called “sequester” was created as a last-ditch provision meant to force Republicans and Democrats to compromise on deficit reduction. The sequester was created to be so painful that neither party could stomach the cuts themselves. The two sides were intended to compromise on combinations of tax revenues and alternative spending cuts to make up the difference.

Democrats have offered their alternative cuts, and combined them with limiting tax deductions that only serve the wealthiest individuals and corporations. Republicans threw the plan out almost immediately, refusing to ever again raise taxes on the wealthy as they did to start the year.

What this country needs is an even wealthier ultra-rich…

This country does in fact have what the Republican Party defines as “a spending problem.” But it also has a tax problem, an income inequality problem, a defense appropriations problem, an unemployment problem, a financial deregulation problem and an ongoing warfare in Central Asia problem.

The United States is in dire need of comprehensive strategic reform. What it does not need is blind cuts for the sake of dollars and cents. We could cut the defense budget by changing its enlistment procedures and encouraging veterans to leave the service to pursue private sector work. We could cut research funding for defense weapons programs that are holdovers from the Cold War. Instead, we are simply cutting paychecks effective March 1 and leaving our veterans to fend for themselves.

We could raise more revenue, further decreasing the budget deficit, by cutting our tax deductions for wealthy individuals or by finally implementing long overdue fees on financial transactions and corporate overseas holdings. The ultra wealthy do not need taxpayer assistance.

According to University of California economist Emmanuel Saez, from 2009 to 2011 the top 1 percent of income earners collected 121 percent of all wealth generated in this economy. That figure indicates that the real value of the bottom 99 percent actually shrank dramatically over the same time period. Why are Republicans insisting on dragging 300 million Americans back into the mud to serve the tax deductions of the top 1 percent?

This economy needs real change. It needs to fiscal compromise and fiscal restraint. It does not need sequestration.


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