Sequestration blues has Lowcountry seeing red
With all the political noise coming out of Washington, Celine McCoy of Goose Creek says she lost the last bit of faith in government “about two years ago.”
We asked, you answered
With $85 billion in domestic and military cuts looming over the nation, The Post and Courier asked Facebook users Thursday whether their faith in government has eroded and whether the cuts are necessary.Craig Kellstrom: Our Government no longer serves the people! They serve whoever pays the highest. Lobbyist and special interests run Washington, we no longer have a voice!Stephen Micalizzi: My faith in government started to erode back when Bill Clinton was in office and continued through Bush and now through Obama. With every passing election, the government is about more control over the people and less control over the corporations that donate to the politicians.Frances Long Rabon: I am glad Republicans are not giving into President for his foolish demands. Government should cut just as individuals do. My faith lies with God not government.Dave Alley: it’s all smoke and mirrors... nothing bad going to happen let them shut downCharles Torgerson: Republicans are the problem. Democrats are the problem. The system is failed. Washington is full of politicians and we do not need them. We need people to GOVERN.Roger Gibbons: The Republicans are not guiltless because they are cowards. But the budget, the deficit, and the debt have to be addressed somehow, and not just with a perfunctory “hello problems.” The Democrats are not going to do it. What the public needs is a wake-up call. This may be it.Rochelle Johnson: Ultimately it is the President’s responsibility. It’s his watch isn’t it? If a Navy ship has an accident (runs aground or hits another ship), the CO is the first to go even if the CO was not on the ship. Why? The CO is responsible. The President is responsible for this country. It’s his watch. It’s like all of the politicians belong to some insane club, where they check their compassion at the door.Jason Watkins: There is a good deal of complaining on here, but do you guys want cuts or not? Or....do you only want cuts when it affects the other guy?Rochelle Johnson: Cut! We all have to compromise. Why doesn’t the President/Senate/Congress lead by example and cut their pay. Let’s see what they will sacrifice. Robby Baker: Let them go into effect. The worst thing that can happen to Obama is for these cuts to engage and nothing bad happens. We’re living above our means, time to trim some fat.Melinda G. Andrews: It is so unfortunate that this seems to be our government’s “solution” — when, in actuality, it is the result of arrogance and stubbornness on the part of both Congress and the President. More important than my “faith” in our government, is my concern for the effects of the sequestration on the citizens of South Carolina. We are a poor State. We depend on federal funding for our social welfare issues. We are dependent on the military for a sizable amount of our jobs. We need more, not less, funding for our substandard public education system. This State will quickly feel the effects of the sequestration. Hopefully, at some point, common sense will prevail and help our elected officials understand that putting their pride and egos above the welfare and livelihoods of the average citizen is a lose-lose situation for everyone.Peter Sharkey: It’s not faith in government that has eroded. It’s faith in people entrusted to run the government for the good of the people they represent that has eroded. As far as it being something the government has to do ... no, the government does not have to punish the people it supposedly serves by jeopardizing their security and livelyhoods!! Not enough time or space here to adequately address this situation.Jason Watkins: Why do people want to turn this into a religious issue? Is it not really about which corporations receive federal subsidies? Faith has nothing to do with it...it’s who gets redistributed tax dollars and who doesn’t.Compiled by Andy Lyons
Restaurant owner Denis O’Doherty thinks Congress, by design, is hard-wired to keep Americans living in fear.
And West Ashley resident Tom Lewis thinks politicians have spent so much time in the D.C. bubble that they’ve lost focus on who they’re supposed to be helping.
He compares Washington spenders to a family living on $60,000 a year salary but going above and beyond their means, freely racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card debt.
The looming sequestration cuts? “Yeah, I’m good with it,” he said. “Because we’ve got to get spending under control.”
With the nation facing its second spending cliff in two months, Lowcountry residents say the repeated examples of 11th-hour financial “chicken” are more aimed at benefitting politicians on Sunday talk shows than in actually addressing the tough and nagging questions.
“It’s distressing to me that the government has no issue giving themselves pay raises, while we all go without,” Jennifer Miklos Holstein, 33, a construction coordinator who lives in Summerville, told The Post and Courier on Facebook.
“They never seem to solve anything, yet they constantly try to distract us with what I consider ‘smoke & mirror’ issues - like gay marriage. It’s all so ridiculous because they DO nothing of any importance. They fight amongst themselves and name-call and act like fools.”
Holstein added, “If my kids act like that, they go to time out.”
Today is supposed to be the official launch of the sequestration, the automatic $85 billion spending cuts that both sides of the aisle said would be easily avoided through negotiation.
While jockeying is still planned and solutions envisioned, perhaps most harmful to the Charleston area if nothing is done is that more than 5,000 civilians who work for the Department of Defense will face furloughs one day out of every five. That translates to a loss of 20 percent in salary for them, probably beginning in April.
Still, news that federal employees are joining the list of private-sector workers who already have faced furloughs and belt-tightening hasn’t created much sympathy and even a backlash.
“I’m good with it,” said McCoy, who knows what it’s like to endure wage cuts, going from $26 to $16 per hour when she changed jobs and moved here from Seattle.
For others, the whole debate remains partisan. Azikiwe Chandler on Thursday paused before walking into the School of Education building at the College of Charleston to vent his frustrations about politicians. The master’s degree student said sequestration is just another example of Washington gridlock.
Chandler, 41, lauded President Barack Obama’s time in office but blamed Republicans for acting as “obstructionists” from devising careful cuts that won’t hurt the country.
He fears that future cuts will further erode financial aid for college students, and that eliminating subsidies for large corporations, such as banks and oil companies, would be a step toward fairness.
“Rather than getting business taken care of, there are people standing in the way,” he added.
Joanne Milkereit, a retired dietician who paid a visit to an art exhibit at the college, said across-the-board cuts are not the way to go about trimming spending. Milkereit, 73, who uses Medicare and Social Security benefits, said politicians’ failure to talk more about changes to those entitlement programs “is stupid.”
She reads newspaper articles about budget talks, but while she disagrees with the drastic cuts, Milkereit said she isn’t scared. Less defense spending could prove to be a good thing, she said. She recalled the shuttering of Charleston Naval Shipyard in the mid-1990s under the Base Closure and Realignment Commission.
“Frankly, the hype is alarmist,” she said. “They thought the Navy base closing would be the end of the world for Charleston. My feeling is we’re better off without it.”
During a break between class sessions, Dominic Romer sold hot dogs and canned Pepsi to college students at St. Philip and Calhoun streets. For Romer, 33, ignorance of the sequestration hubbub is bliss.
After his nephew stuffed bubble gum into his CD player, he was forced to listen to National Public Radio rather than music. He gorged himself on political news and soon grew tired of lawmakers’ squabbling.
“It just seems like one failed talk after another,” Romer said. “It gets old. It’s like watching a couple fight all the time.”
He expressed little interest in budget cuts but said that all government should be streamlined to make it easier for small-business owners like him to earn a living. The local permitting process for his food cart, for example, was frustrating, he said.
Romer said he was sickened by the term “fiscal cliff.” And now he’s tuning out from hearing “sequestration” too. He finally fixed his CD player, and he’s back to listening only to music.