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John Winters Columnist

Published Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sequester this

When the federal government starts using words you’ve never heard of, watch out.

I refer to words like “ethnic cleansing.” This is the polite way of saying one group is killing another. Not that there’s a polite way to talk about the mass execution of another, but why can’t we just call it what it is?

Now we are playing with “fiscal cliff” and “sequestration.” These are terms used by the Certain people in Congress and the Other People in Congress who blame each other for not fixing whatever. And the Certain People and the Other People also point fingers at Those People in the White House. It’s everyone’s fault but theirs.

We somehow avoided the fiscal cliff, which involved the nation falling off the mountain of debt; at least that’s the image that works for me. We did that by simply saying we could borrow more money. There’s a concept we should try at home. We spend too much, so just borrow more to pay for the stuff we can’t afford anyway and add to our debt.

Those must be the kind of jokes bankers share with each other.

Now sequestration was, intentionally, the absolutely worse idea the Certain and Other people could come up. Make a law soooooo bad that everyone would work together to ensure it would never happen. Basically, automatic cuts kick in if the Certain and Other types can’t agree to fix the budget. And that would never happen. But it did.

And it’s not like the department heads get to choose where those cuts come from, they are pretty much across the board. And yes, there are some exempted budget items - and very expensive ones, mind you. And all that means is the non-exempted ones get hit harder.

Put it this way. You have two non-exempted departments. Program X buys rifle ammunition. Program Y is working on turning peanuts into rifle ammo. Under sequestration, you can’t be logical and kill the peanuts for ammo idea. No, each program gets cut, meaning we have less rifle ammo and still can’t make peanuts into ammo.

Or, White House tours are canceled, but somehow we can still have a politically-fueled St. Paddy’s Day White House affair. Or our military continues to get paid (exempted), but their tuition assistance and TRICARE (non-exempt) are getting cut.

The FBI will be cut by $480 million, but we just gave Egypt $250 million. I have no idea. Sorry. Our military planes will continue to fly, with less fuel; the Air Force Academy Band will not be playing in Newnan.

I will be the first to admit it is easy to sit here and criticize the Certains and Others and Thoses (yes, I know that’s not a word).

So let’s come up with a solution. And I have one. It’s called “Doing The Sistine.”

Round up all the budget committees, stick them in a room, and make them sit on uncomfortable chairs.

Lock the doors. And most importantly, take away all their electronic toys. No television, no radio, no newspapers. Politicians with no outside contact - the whole cruel and unusual punishment thing.

And they can’t leave until they come up with a plan. We are not being Draconian here. They get potty breaks and can sleep at night on hard cots. And they’ll get water and bread.

Impossible isn’t it?

That would be like getting 115 people together from all over the world - Africa, Europe, North America, South America and Asia - and doing the same thing.

Except they are only trying to determine the next spiritual leader for about 1.2 billion people. And their decision lasts, literally, a lifetime.

Sure, there is some political posturing to get one’s preferred candidate elected. But the selection of the new pope, at least for the first rounds, requires a two-thirds majority.

Other than sending a letter to North Korea about how “seriously serious” we are this time and are “really, really unhappy” with their nuke program, I doubt the Certains and the Others could come up with a two-thirds majority on anything.

And probably not even that letter, because they would argue over how many times they should say “really.”

.........................

John A. Winters is a staff writer for The Newnan Times-Herald. You can follow the adventure at justflipthedog.com . Reach him at john@newnan.com .

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