The right kind of encouragement

Published 9:29 pm Thursday, September 13, 2012

It would be easy enough to single out one political party or another for blame in the fiasco that has become known as sequestration at the Department of Defense. And anyone who is looking for someone at whom they can aim pointed fingers can pretty easily find a scapegoat with a quick Internet search of the term. The Web is crawling with blogs devoted to excoriating Republicans or Democrats — depending on the writer’s affiliation — for the “fiscal cliff” America careens toward even as you read these words.

“Sequestration” is the word for the $500 billion worth of indiscriminate cuts that will occur to the defense budget if Congress fails to reach an agreement to reduce the deficit before Jan. 2. The plan was set into action when a so-called Supercommittee of Democratic and Republican congressional members from both houses of Congress failed to find an acceptable middle ground on how to reduce the deficit earlier this year.

With the United States in the midst of a polarizing election process, to be followed after Nov. 6 by a lame-duck session of Congress, hopes for that deal are dimming, and important defense programs could well find themselves on the cutting table.

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While members of both parties and both houses of Congress seek to score political points against each other over the deficit and continue to use the threat of sequestration as a public bludgeon against one another, real people are looking into the dark, unknown place that lies ahead, wondering whether the nation will be put at risk by the gamesmanship and whether their jobs are at risk.

Arizona Sen. John McCain this week released a set of letters he has received from defense contractors warning that the threat of sequestration would likely result in many thousands of notices being sent to workers around the nation as soon as late this month, putting them on notice that they could be laid off as a result of the failure to reach a deal.

Congress, which has shown itself loath to compromise on the issue or to do much work at all during the past few years, is now on notice that its childish antics are hurting people. During an election year, one would think that sort of notice would be just the kind of encouragement that’s needed.