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Avoiding sequestration may depend on back room deals

In Business, Economy, Jobs, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, State News, Uncategorized on March 8, 2013 at 9:38 am


By Gery L. Deer

Over the last several weeks, political bloggers and cable news talking heads have tormented their mush-brained followers with frightening tales of the pending budget sequestration. As the media spreads yet another horror story of fiscal disintegration, the real efforts to solve these problems probably won’t be broadcast by CSPAN or anyone else for that matter. Actually, it’s unlikely anyone will know how the deals were actually reached or by whom.

Washington seems to be consumed in a cloud of congestion caused and perpetuated by power-hungry narcissists who go relatively untouched by their own actions. More than $85 billion will be cut reaching virtually every part of government infrastructure from soup to nuts.

For those not schooled in political fiscal jargon, sequestration probably sounds less like an economic term and more like something a proctologist might diagnose. Instead the word refers to a series of pre-arranged and unilateral budget cuts to government agencies. The plan was laid out as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011which extended the government’s ability to borrow money.

Preventing the process from going forward is essential if the recent economic growth in the country is to continue. Despite exaggerated job growth numbers, the economy really is improving, albeit at a snail’s pace for those down in the real world. As the clock ticks down to the self-imposed fiscal doomsday, all sides profess that progress is being made but officials never sound too optimistic.

Somewhere in Washington, however, in some dark, smoke-filled room, lesser known but equally powerful political operatives are working the real deals that will settle the budget crisis. These quiet, back-room bargains are a mainstay of politics at every level of government and are often where the real work gets done.

Bob Greene is a noted Washington journalist, author and CNN contributing writer. In a recent CNN.com editorial, he mentions a South Michigan Avenue hotel in Chicago called the Blackstone. More than a century old, the Blackstone was where the political phrase “smoke-filled room” originated, referring to the back-room deals made by politicians to hammer out solutions to issues out of view of the public and the press.

Greene writes, “In 1920, Warren G. Harding was chosen as the Republican candidate for president by a group of leaders meeting there to hammer out a consensus, even as the official convention was in session in a different part of town. A wire-service reporter wrote that the choice had been worked out “in a smoke-filled room,” and it became part of the language.”

Put another way, there are two things no one wants to see made – sausages and laws. The fact is, for the most part, the public only sees what Washington wants exposed. Even though most government buildings are now smoke-free, there are still plenty of back room deals and, oddly, that’s probably how it should happen.

Sometimes legislators and their associates are charged to get the job done and keep the public out of it, that’s why there are elected representatives of the people. But for the last few years, very little of substance has been accomplished because of a Washington steeped in a self-induced state of perpetual crisis.

Millions of Americans will be affected by sequestration if a deal cannot be reached soon. Yet, a bitter irony surrounds the group of people who go unaffected by the cuts – congress and the president. While layoffs and furloughs create havoc for millions of families, Mr. Obama, Mr. Boehner and the rest of their Beltway buds sleep comfortably in luxury unwilling to give an inch of political ground.

Whatever they might say during election season, a more disconnected group of legislators never existed. Stocked with millionaires drawing six-figure salaries, federal leaders have no comprehension of how their actions affect their tax-paying benefactors.  The only thing left to do now is hope the smoke-filled room has an “occupied” sign on the door.


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