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Letter from the Editor

On Tropical Storm Sequester, the latest "Fiscal Cliff"

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Are you prepared for Tropical Storm Sequester? It's coming March 1st and will leave all kinds of destruction in its wake, according to many forecasts. Sequester follows close on the heels of Tropical Storm Fiscal Cliff, which in January threatened to destroy America, before narrowly being averted by the heroic actions of the president and Congress.

Sequester has been hovering just outside Washington, D.C., since August 2011, when Congress invented it as a mechanism to force itself to further reduce the deficit. The theory being, apparently, that it would be such a horrible financial disaster that no one in their right mind would seriously consider letting it happen.

Now many GOP forecasters from the Whether Channel say Sequester is not a big deal after all and that the storm won't really harm us. The Whether Channel's Bobby Jindal accused the administration of "political theater." The Wall Street Journal says Sequester will actually be a good thing.

The White House, on the other hand, is claiming Sequester will leave a devastating wake, causing furloughs for thousands of federal employees, including air-traffic controllers, TSA agents, border patrol, and military personnel, and will cut vital funds allocated for education, unemployment benefits, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, environmental regulation, postal service, and health care.

Who's right? Depends on who you want to believe. According to a Pew poll, 62 percent of Americans believe Sequester will have a negative impact. How much won't be known immediately. The storm officially hits March 1st, but it will take awhile before the full extent of the damage is known, since each federal agency will independently determine what to cut and how to do it.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood says mandatory days off for TSA agents and air-traffic controllers will mean log-jammed air travel. Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano says fewer border patrol agents will hamper the nation's ability to control its borders. In response to massive cuts to the states for many programs, the nation's governors this week asked Congress to come up with a more balanced and nuanced plan of action.

The Whether Channel's John McCain called Sequester "dumb" and "devastating," adding that it could cost his home state 49,000 jobs. But his wingman, Lindsey Graham, says "it will happen." The White House calls Sequester "a blunt instrument" and a foolhardy way to deal with the deficit in a fragile economy.

I agree with all three of them.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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