Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Monkeying Around With America

With nine days left until the Congressional Republicans once again yank the economic self-destruct lever and send millions of Americans back into the unemployment lines, we're more than a little concerned with our colleagues in the media.

As the deadline has swung ever closer, many in the media apparently have preferred to - literally - fling stories about poo, or screech loudly about how politics just isn't the same as it used to be. There has also been a great deal of unnecessary chest beating and blame-shifting going on surrounding the sequester issue.

Watching the media fail to report this critical issue clearly is more fun than a barrel of monkeys - and we don't mean the child's game. That's actually still fun. This failure? Not so much.

It's not as though coverage of the looming sequester is actually all that complicated. Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast made it very clear exactly who is responsible for the sequester cuts. Yes, President Obama may have come up with the idea, when the Republicans in Congress held him and the nation economic hostages in August 2011. That was the hostage situation that Republicans thought they won, when Speaker John Boenher said Republicans got 98% of everything they wanted. As Tomasky notes, 218 Republicans in the House voted for that "everything," including the sequester penalty in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Not a single House Democrat backed the idea.

Even though members of only one party - the Democratic Party - have been willing to compromise, President Obama and many Congressional Democrats have accepted their share of responsibility in passing the 2011 bill that included the sequester. Democrats on Capitol Hill have shown a surprising amount of willingness to find compromise with Congressional Republicans on finding tax and budget solutions that would end the sequester threat.

President Obama even called a press conference Tuesday morning, explicitly detailing what kinds of harsh effects the American people will feel if Congress invokes the sequester by doing nothing. From cancer researchers to workers employed in military support functions, from first responders to teachers, hundreds of thousands of workers will lose their jobs - some as soon as nine days from now. Loan guarantees to small businesses will fall through too - and don't even think about going to the park to get away from it all.

Many parks and monuments will be closed without federal employees to take care of them.

The message that this sequester is not some abstract idea still doesn't seem to be getting through the proto-simian skulls of Congressional Republicans like Mitch McConnell  - who frankly can't afford any more political failures this year. Most of Congress is actually in a similar political situation to McConnell, with overall Congressional approval ratings still scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel.

Unlike many media pundits, we still think Congress will hang everything on a last-minute solution, and fix things - at least temporarily - before the sequester cuts actually hit in nine days.

After all, even if the GOP continues playing war games with itself, monkeying around with open elected seats while working Americans worry about losing their jobs, there's one game all Republicans hate to lose more than they hate each other - or Democrats.

It's called the "staying employed" game - a game they'll have a nearly impossible time winning in 2014, if the sequester cuts go through.