Friday, March 01, 2013
The sequester starts today but as news media have reported, it isn't going to affect the paychecks of the President or of Congress. Should it? From a perspective of putting pressure on Congress and the White House to agree to some plan, perhaps it should. On the other hand, these are relatively wealthy men and women. Missing a paycheck or two or three is not going to bankrupt them. The only reason to take a pay deferral would be to show that legislators are in this together with the people being put on furlough. From that point of view, it might insulate Congress and the White House from some criticism. It won't do much, however, because voters know the source of the problem is bickering between the parties and President. No one likes austerity, but the nation is experiencing lean times. It would be better in the long run if politicians and citizens would get on with their lives with leaner budgets. That won't happen. There is no urgency in the country to get debt under control, and it would take a concerted communications campaign on the part of the President and Congress to convince citizens that something must be done. The President and the Democrats, however, are pressing to spend more. Clashing economic theories are at the root of the dispute, and there doesn't appear to be a third way that all could agree upon. So what good would symbolism do?