The Great Political Divide

By Tom Cook, President, National Renderers Association

In a column early last year, I wrote about being guilty by association. In it, I protested that just because one lived and worked in the Washington, DC, area in somewhat government-related work didn’t mean one should be blamed by everyone outside of Washington for what goes wrong there. I am just as frustrated as the next person that the two sides can’t get together at least on some issues, such as making the sequestration more manageable.

The sequestration is across-the-board spending cuts that will not actually go into effect until mid-April. On the surface, there is not much leeway. The various government agencies and Congress all have to find ways to slash about 2.5 percent in domestic program discretionary spending and similar defense cuts.

President Barack Obama and his administration waged an all-out campaign the last two weeks of February warning citizens that the wheels of government would come to a screeching halt if the cuts were implemented. Police officers, firefighters, nurses, teachers, and other first responders would be the first to be axed. The Transportation Security Administration, which ensures security at the nation’s airports, would be reduced so much that flights would be severely delayed. The education secretary was questioned on his claim that 40,000 teachers would lose their jobs. He stood by this statement three times to the press before being forced to substantiate the claim. Well, it was 40 teachers in West Virginia and those jobs might not be related to the sequestration. A Democrat congresswoman claimed 170 million jobs would be lost. Huh?

Even the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stated that federal meat inspection would come to a halt. That one hit a nerve with the livestock and poultry industries as well as renderers. Livestock and poultry producers are already hurting with increased expenses along with a severe drought in the major livestock producing states. I doubt USDA wants to be seen as adding extra burden to them by cutting back meat inspection. USDA was also caught sending a directive to its regional and state offices not to contradict the claims coming from the administration.

Closing the White House tours to the public might have been the last straw in testing US citizens’ patience. This token action by the White House during the height of tourist season and upcoming cherry tree blossoms has brought not only anger but also the recognition of the silliness of the administration’s actions. Tourists, thousands of them, come from all over the country this time of year to see the sites of Washington. If they want to tour the White House, they must get tickets through their representatives well in advance of the trip. This time, the rage is coming from outside of Washington.

As of this writing, it appears the administration’s campaign to excite the public has backfired. The sequestration should be an opportunity for US government officials to show that the government can manage responsibly. Instead, they try to scare us into believing they can’t do what we all must do every day, which is manage our resources.

It reminds me of some local television weather forecasters when a winter storm is approaching, something just recently experienced. Schools and the federal government shut down for the day based on the snowy forecast alone. What did we get? Rain most of the day, not the six to eight inches of snow predicted. Weather forecasters get it right most of the time, but how did they miss this one so badly?

The current political divide is real on certain issues and just the way it is going to be, at least for a while. The Republicans are not likely to go for a tax increase anytime soon, believing there needs to be more spending cuts. The president and Democrats like to have a “more balanced” approach, meaning higher taxes to offset the cuts. This divide will not be closed for some time.

I’ve often heard that many think we ought to vote out all members of Congress and start with a completely new Congress. That might be like throwing the baby out with the bath water. An old friend who has been in Washington a long time reminded me that everyone hates Congress, but like his or her own Congressman.

April 2013 RENDER | back