By Katharine Macomber

This word, “sequester,” has been thrown around over the past two years, but has reared its head too many times to count in the recent months. Let’s first define the noun, “sequester.” Merriam Webster says: “Se·ques·ter /səˈkwestər/; definition: a general cut in government spending.” Well that doesn’t sound too bad, I mean we are almost $17 trillion in national debt; perhaps we could make a few sacrifices to prevent an implosion. But if it happens in Washington, it ain’t that simple.

Let’s back track a little bit: The “sequester,” in this case, entails a 10% automatic across-the-board cut in every single United States government program except Social Security and Medicare. It was a drastic “last option”, doomsday, red button act passed by Congress in the Budget Control Act of 2011 which would become active if the government failed to make a decision on the debt ceiling make real efforts to reduce the deficit. We haven’t heard much of said sequester until now because normally President Obama and the Democrats force their hand and the debt ceiling is raised when a decision does not come through.

Fast forward to the sequester threat in late December and today. Democrats and Republicans are now “engaging” in “debates” over what kind of measures can be taken to avoid these cuts. Although at face value, a 10% deduction in spending sounds like a good and necessary thing, it could also cost thousands of jobs for government (and non-government) employees and reduce funds for dependent citizens. Many economists suggest that it would be too drastic for the nation’s economy to handle resulting in adverse effects; whether or not that’s an exaggeration is another question.

President Obama has suggested a balanced plan to reduce the deficit and avoid the sequester, which includes closing tax loopholes, possible tax increases (again) and some entitlement reforms among other things. Have “the rich pay a little bit more,” he said, “It’ll work,” he said, “It’ll be fair,” he said. But what IS fair? So raise only an infinitesimal amount of revenue by reducing loopholes for the wealthy and eventually not cutting spending by the same amount. All aboard the express train to the Entitlement State…

Meanwhile, Republicans, although they do not want to see this sequester go into effect, are taking a harder stance on spending cuts. They have a set of proposals (see the five points midway through the article) to add to the debate as well. Republicans are more concerned with cutting spending, no matter if it takes away from entitlements or effects wasteful government programs (including certain defense programs) because, HELLO, this isn’t Europe! Why are we spending so much as a nation anyway? College students like us are going to be settled with this debt and no jobs to pay for it. And John Boehner is just one big sourpuss when it comes to all of this. “It’s high time the Senate gets off their ass,” he said in a press conference on Tuesday. Wow, how can we listen to a guy with a foul mouth AND poor grammar? I believe it should be “[the Senate] gets off ITS ass,” Speaker Boehner…

So what happens next? This Friday, March 1, the sequester comes down again as the spending cut vote that should have taken place on January 1, has been pushed back to this Friday as a deadline. Congressmen have been scrambling around (mainly screaming that the other guys aren’t doing jack squat) proposing ways to reach a balanced budget. But let’s be real, the only thing that’s going to happen is Obama will refuse to negotiate on his insistence on cutting tax loopholes or raising taxes and a bipartisan bill will not be passed; and lo, the debt ceiling will be raised once again and our country will continue to  hurtle down the path to bankruptcy!

Do you think Congress will finally reach a budget agreement so we can cut spending and reduce our national debt?