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:
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
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
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
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
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.