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Despite the looming deadline, lawmakers are no closer to negotiating a deal to avoid "sequester" spending cuts set to take effect March 1. Fortunately, Steve Almond has some suggestions. In this photo, President Barack Obama speaks about sequestration in the Oval Office on Feb. 15, 2013. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The pundits who are paid to tell us what we should be afraid of, and who we should resent, have been working overtime of late to warn us about the so-called “sequester,” a raft of automatic cuts slated to take effect March 1.

Based on estimates by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, a staggering 700,000 Americans could lose their jobs thanks to these cuts, which are aimed squarely, and stupidly, at the poor and powerless. Flight delays are the least of it, folks.

Unfortunately, Congress (by which I can be taken to mean Congressional Republicans) has staged these fiscal hissy fits so frequently that most Americans have tuned out.

The truth is, most citizens are not opposed to automatic spending cuts. They just want to see cuts that make sense, rather than taking a hatchet to Head Start and Medicare.

Therefore, in the interest of solving this manufactured crisis (so we can move along to the next awesome one!) I hereby propose the following cuts:

(AMagill/ flickr)

(AMagill/ flickr)

1. Congressional Pay

The current salary for members of Congress is $174,000, not including benefits. I think we can all agree that it’s time to lop one zero off that figure. How better to put out-of-touch politicians in touch with the realities of working Americans?

Seventeen grand and change may not sound like much. But based on the amount of actual legislating these politicians do (as opposed to fundraising and bloviating) they’d be making more than minimum wage.

Critics who feel such low pay would tempt lawmakers into corruption clearly haven’t been paying attention to how corrupt they already are.

Proposed cut: 90 percent

(Gene J. Puskar/AP)

(Gene J. Puskar/AP)

2. Big Oil Subsidies

If you think you’re getting ripped off at the pump, consider this: Big Oil stands to receive up to $40 billion in subsidies per year from you, the taxpayer.

Industry lobbyists and their intrepid legislative lapdogs like to trot out the canard that ending these subsidies would be a “tax hike” and result in higher gas prices. Nonsense. Big oil has jacked up prices despite a decade of soaring profits. (Exxon alone made $41 billion last year.)

Proposed cut: 100 percent

(Nati Harnik/AP)

(Nati Harnik/AP)

3. Meat and Cheetos Subsidies

Most Americans agree that the government should support our farmers. The problem with the current agricultural subsidies is that they have nothing to do with farms. They’re essentially a slush fund for huge corporations that grow corn, wheat, cotton, and rice.

These subsidies get passed on to the huge corporations who farm our meat and crank out our junk food. Which is why a burger or a bag of potato chips is now cheaper than a fresh salad. Ah, capitalism!

Let’s cut all freebies to Farm, Inc. and transfer the dough directly to sustainable small and mid-sized operations that grow actual fruit and vegetables.

Proposed cut: 75 percent

("Caveman Chuck" Coker/ flickr)

(“Caveman Chuck” Coker/ flickr)

4. Pot Prosecutions

Over the past four decades, taxpayers have spent more than a trillion dollars on the so-called “War on Drugs.” So far as I can tell, people are doing more dope than ever, though a lot is produced by drug companies and is now called “medication.”

Nonetheless, most of us not named Grandpa can agree that marijuana is not a terribly dangerous drug when used in moderation. I have yet to encounter a “pot rampage” captured on video. In fact, your average pothead poses very little risk to anyone who isn’t a chocolate chip cookie.

And yet the U.S. government spends hundreds of millions of dollars arresting, trying, and incarcerating stoners.

Cut it out.

Proposed cut: 100 percent

(Gerald Herbert/AP)

(Gerald Herbert/AP)

5. Donald Trump’s Oxygen Supply

I realize this seems trivial, but if time really does equal money, Trump and his puckered fly trap of a mouth costs us plenty.

He doesn’t even qualify as a pundit, which would require a basic awareness of the world beyond himself. What Trump does is pure personal marketing, aimed at those poor saps who share his grotesque version of “class.”

To be clear, I’m not proposing we asphyxiate Trump. That would be homicidal. I’m merely suggesting we limit his oxygen to the point that he can’t speak into a microphone.

Proposed cut: 40 percent (subject to adjustment by medical professionals)

Feel free to contribute your own sequester cuts in the comments section below…

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

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  • http://twitter.com/jhayesboh James Hayes-Bohanan

    Cutting congressional pay might feel good in the short run. But it would not amount to significant money in the scheme of things. More importantly, such a low salary would push us even further toward candidates who either:
    1) Already have enough money that they do not need the salary, and are therefore not well grounded in the reality of most fellow citizens; or
    2) Counting on making up the money in other ways, trading on the power they wield.
    Both tendencies are already too strong; further cuts would make this representation even less representative.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000523513841 Abdelali Azhari

      Both points are invalid as the author has explained.
      it’s been always the ones with money who are considered as candidates and actually win the elections, exceptions are very rare. So you might just as well chop that last digit anyways.

    • Pat

      The article is a satire–the author’s kidding about pay cuts! But the joke’s a good one–corruption in the Congress is so high it’s hard to imagine what deeper corruption a pay cut could lead to….

  • Dan

    Free ALL marijuana prisoners. ALL!

  • gossipy

    We’ve tuned out because we already know these things. Politics has become a pastime of the rich who are out of touch with those of us supporting their salaries and perks. Removing a 0 is a good start.

  • Peter

    How about this …….. All congressional “leaders” who vote for war have to spend time in combat (don’t worry we are always fighting a war somewhere) while receiving military pay as a private.

  • sjw81

    these are great and agreed…overall this forced budget cut , across the board, is the best thing to happen in wash dc in many years…why do we haveto have such an inflated and bloated fed gov? our defense industry is more than rest of world comined, so cut away these jobs and staffs. it surely takes away from our economy to do other things. cut the congress staff,salalry, perks, etc. let them leave…

  • massappeal

    Why not just cut the sequester itself? Save 700,000 or so jobs and keep the economy growing.

    • http://profiles.google.com/vandammes James Van Damme

      If that actually worked, we could tax more, spend more, have full employment, and never have to pay it back.

  • burroak

    Here, here, Steve, well put. They make reasonable sense. Perhaps a televison appearance, for example: on msnbc with Chris Matthews might create an effective impact. Maybe a positive push out of the the sequester muck.

  • Ellie

    I must not be reading widely enough. Either that, or it’s true that nobody has explained in layperson’s terms exactly how the “automatic, across-the-board” cuts for the sequester get chosen. My boyfriend insists that the Obama Administration has deliberately targeted the most publicly obvious areas for cuts. I tried countering that the Budget Control Act of 2011 dictates that they be automatic across all areas, but I can’t prove it. Please help.

    • massappeal

      Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security are exempt from the sequester. Otherwise, pretty much everything else in the federal budget is subject to it. The net effect is that roughly half the cuts come from defense and half from “domestic discretionary” spending.

      • fb

        Medicare is not exempt. Rates paid to providers (already lowered 20% in the past 4 years) are set to go down 2% on 3/1.

        • massappeal

          True. It’s Medicare benefits to patients that are exempt.

  • Jackie

    All good points, but you might want to look into wheat subsidies a bit more. There are small farmers who get government subsidies and would not survive without them. Wheat farmers as well as fruit and veg. farmers.

  • Jo

    I couldn’t agree with Mr. Almond more;particularly with the cut in salary for members of Congress.
    Is there some way to make this happen rather than just wishful thinking?

  • Lenny_Mirra

    VERY misleading article. Check out the link to the oil subsidies – there’s nothing but a tongue in cheek piece about nonsense. This is a partisan hit piece.

    • Pat

      How can a satire be “misleading”?! And which party do you see the author’s jokes directed at?

  • Tom

    Cut all defense contractors( mercenaries).If we do not have enough vounteers to fight our wars do not fight them.
    Reinstate the draft.Enlist congressional children first in war zones only .You voted for it SEND YOUR OWN CHILDREN.
    Legalize pot.Tax it.End the war on recreational intoxicants.

  • Geoff Dutton

    Media commentators have been wringing their hands over how the cuts will affect military “readiness” (for what, another Afghanistan?). It turns out that spending for the major big-ticket items, like fighter jets and guided missile destroyers is unaffected, because most of the items have been in the pipeline for so long. How about cancelling some hardware orders?

  • Shirley Q

    Definitely congressional pay: 4 years x 430 or so ‘legislators’ x 174, reduce their benefits, cut their medical insurance since they only ‘work’ part time. This could fund several programs!!!

  • paula jones

    Cut subsidies to Big Corn… we need to make healthier products using less of this sugary starch to eat and no subsidies for food based ethanol.

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