The American public has been in some state of panic ever since Lehman Brothers announced it was on the verge of collapse in September 2008. With its more than $600 million in assets, America was faced with the biggest bankruptcy filing in history, and if Lehman Bros. failed, we were told it would have been crippling to our country, toppling over investments and depleting retirement funds. Shortly thereafter, America was faced with many of its major banks, mortgage lenders and automakers in severe financial crisis. In order to avoid major job loss and investments losing much, if not all, of their value, the federal government stepped in with billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money and opted for rescue over demise. This fiscal insecurity sent shock waves across America, and soon after major corporations and local and state agencies conducted mass layoffs and furloughs. In an effort to stave off even more job loss, the federal government infused the country with hundreds of billions of dollars to create jobs on infrastructure projects as well as with the cultivation of innovative technologies. The outcome four years later: slow but steady economic revival, stability and job growth, which is clearly better than collapse. Though bailouts came with a large price tag, they resulted in a healthier economic situation. But that large price tag is among the top reasons many say the U.S. is around $17 trillion in debt and blame the federal government for getting us into this mess.
In 2011, when Congress came to a stalemate over the budget, there were talks about a government shutdown, which would have resulted in numerous layoffs and major reductions in federal government programs and services. But just as in 2008 and 2009, lawmakers decided that instead of enabling such a disaster, they would negotiate a budget deal to keep America functioning as usual. In late 2012, again, Congress was faced with another dreadful predicament with the “fiscal cliff” that would have reinstated higher taxes on the middle class. In order to keep more money in the pockets of not only the middle class but also the rich, legislators reached a deal that extended the tax cuts. With the 2011 and 2012 crises, both resulted in few spending cuts or new revenue streams. With little change either way, the national debt has practically become insurmountable. While much of the debt accrued well before the Obama Administration, President Barack Obama hasn’t been presented with fair deals. Nor, apparently, has he offered any palatable deals to a conservative House. So we are right where we started — the national debt continues to grow and taxpayers blame the federal government for racking it up with what so many think produced little tangible result in bettering our country.
With the sequester only a day away (March 1), we say, “Let it happen.” At this point in the game, no matter what good the federal government tries to do, no matter what bad it tries to avoid, no matter the reasons or excuses for our national debt, few Americans seem to understand what the repercussions would have been if the federal government had not stepped in. Due to the incessant blame game and lack of understanding about what the federal government has done, we hope our lawmakers do nothing. We want the public to see and feel what the consequences of inaction are. In fact, we are somewhat eager to see for ourselves if inaction is actually better, and may be better for the future. It’s truly a risky bet — this idea of small government, but we are willing to take it.
It will take at least another month before the public actually notices anything different but we are fairly certain that the initial sting won’t be as bad as the long-term effects of inaction. Over time, more than $500 billion will be cut from the Department of Defense and other national security agencies. Tens of billions will be cut from national parks, federal courts, the FBI, the FDA and housing aid. The result — well, one can only imagine, but since lawmakers and the media have only talked about how bad things could be rather than actually letting them happen, the American public has no idea what it’s in for. Since we have been living outside of our means for so long, let’s go with the punches and see how long we can stand it. Our guess — it won’t be long before America jumps to action and asks why the federal government did nothing to prevent such a nightmare from happening.
Time will tell if legislators actually adhere to the sequester by the end of April. We think they will intervene with some sort of deal that will appease many, but they will still be blamed when nothing has been done to bring down the national debt. Whatever comes of this, however, we hope Americans learn the value of the federal government, whether it is worth a little or a lot. We are not looking forward to any of these detrimental blows, but in this blame game and apparent crying-wolf situation, we want to feel the sting to create some real change and ensure real compromise while avoiding a drastic calamity.