Sequestration: a sense of inevitability

2 days until the sequester

With time running out on the March 1 deadline for the implementation of devastating and indiscriminate across-the-board budget cuts, you might expect political leaders to have locked themselves into a room for arduous negotiations emerging only to jab members of the other party through the media. And that is exactly what is happening. Except for the negotiations part. President Obama and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, have not spoken to each other about a deal to avert sequestration in almost a week.

Nearly every politician is on record as saying sequestration is bad policy, yet almost every politician has said that sequestration is going to happen. Why hasn’t a deal been reached or even discussed? Basically it comes down to this: Sequestration gives both sides something they want, meaning that it is much harder to motivate either side to find a bipartisan solution. For Republicans, sequestration represents a way to force significant budget cuts on an administration that they claim spends far too much money. While they oppose the cuts to the Department of Defense, the overall notion of cutting the federal budget appeals to most of the Republican Party. For Democrats, on the other hand, sequestration is a method to cut the DoD budget, which many in the party view as bloated. While they oppose cuts to the other programs that sequester will hit, the opportunity to cut the DoD budget to this degree is rare and appeals to many members of the Democratic Party.

So what is a scientist to do? Is all hope lost? Of course not. One needs to remember that Washington is a deadline-driven town. In fact, Obama has invited the leadership of both parties from both houses to the White House to discuss sequestration on Friday. It’s not clear if a deal will get done, but there is still plenty of time to make noise and urge our leaders to strike a compromise. Write a letter to your local newspaper editor, or find out who your representatives are and then call, email and use social media to let them know your opinions!

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