Editorial: Get on with the job
As our dysfunctional Congress lurches toward the dreaded "sequester"—across-the-board spending cuts that take effect in lieu of a deficit reduction agreement—we shudder to think of its effect upon our fragile, possibly recovering local economy.
To be sure, some political watchers welcome its arrival, saying such drastic cuts are the only way to fix the national debt and deficit. We liken this "cure" to the drastic last steps of cutting off arms and legs for a patient to get well. Better for the moment, perhaps, but with permanent impairments.
A majority of Virginia’s Congressional delegation, Republicans and Democrats alike, in view of the state’s heavy dependence on federal jobs and contracts, has sent the following letter to President Obama, Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid:
"As a bipartisan delegation of Virginia lawmakers representing wide-ranging interests and viewpoints, we write to show unified support for immediate action to avert the devastating impacts of sequestration. The Commonwealth of Virginia, with its long history of contribution to our national defense and to the federal government, will bear a disproportionate amount of the pain imposed by these arbitrary cuts should they come to pass.
"These reductions, while harmful to the entire U.S. economy, will be particularly devastating to Virginia. According to a study published by George Mason University, nearly 10 percent of the 2.1 million jobs that would be lost as a result of sequestration will come from Virginia. Of these 207,571 Virginia jobs, 136,191 will be lost as a result of cuts to defense, 71,380 job losses will result from reductions in non-defense spending. Further, sequestration would result in a loss of $20.8 billion in gross state product. The consequences of a failure to avert sequestration will ripple through all parts of our state economy …
"We stand ready to work hand-in-hand to negotiate an agreement to avert these cuts that threaten grave consequences for the Commonwealth, our federal government, and our national security."
The letter is signed by Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Representatives Rob Wittman (1st district), Scott Rigell (2nd), Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (3rd), J. Randy Forbes (4th), Jim Moran (8th), Frank Wolf (10th), and Gerry Connolly (11th). Not every Representative got on board, but this is a majority of the 13 men who represent Virginia in Congress.
If they can work together, if they are willing to work together, why can’t their colleagues? Indeed, Sen. Warner has been part of a bipartisan effort working for months to solve this problem. There are others who have been ignored, including the respected Simpson-Bowles Commission.
It’s time for the foolishness in Washington, D.C., to stop. It’s time to cut pork, cut out tax loopholes, and possibly raise some tax rates to put revenue in the federal coffers.
One thing seems certain to us: If the sequester takes effect and, some months down the road, takes a firm hold, no solution having been found, then Virginia’s economy and our local economy will tank. The recession will start again. Tax revenues will fall. And the federal deficit will swell, again.
If, on the other hand, a solution is found, the fragile recovery may blossom and grow. Business profits will increase, people will find jobs, and tax revenues will rise. The deficit will shrink.
That’s our position, and we’re sticking to it. Our members of Congress, of either party, were elected to represent the people, not their own prospects for reelection and not the ideological interests of their respective parties. We demand they get on with the job.
On Tuesday, former Sen. Alan Simpson and former Clinton adviser Erskine Bowles, Republican and Democrat respectively, and the bookends of the Simpson Bowles Commission, came out with a new proposal to cut national debt by $2.4 trillion over the next decade using a combination of revenue increases and cuts.
They are people of good faith; and most Americans are too. They are working together, as most Americans would desire our leaders to do. And they said, in a summary of their plan:
"The problem is real, the solutions are painful and there is no easy way out. What we are calling for is by no means perfect, but it could serve as a mark for real bipartisan negotiations on a plan to reduce the deficit and grow the economy."
It is time for Congress to follow their lead.