U.S. aviation officials are warning of severe flight delays due to furloughs of air traffic controllers triggered by the sequester's across-the-board budget cuts. I have a better idea.
Instead of furloughing controllers across the country, the Federal Aviation Administration should just shut down all major airports for the nation's capital: Reagan National, Dulles and Baltimore-Washington International. This will achieve the same cost savings while trapping members of Congress in Washington until they do what they were elected to do: make the strategic, if difficult, choices on spending and taxes necessary to bend the curve of the U.S. deficit.
Why should the whole country suffer for the failure of Washington's political class to do their jobs? The point of the sequestration provision -- enacted with bipartisan support in 2011 -- was to create a "poison pill" so painful that Congress would be compelled to agree to a rational package of spending cuts and tax hikes, no matter how distasteful (in different ways) to both major parties.
Not such a bad idea, really. But no one anticipated that many in Congress, particularly on the Republican side, would be so unhinged from reality that they would not only lose their fear of a sequester, but they would embrace it as a clumsy but effective means of slashing government spending.
In other words, Congress' mistake was not in creating a poison pill to force members to do the right thing, but in failing to create a pill that is sufficiently poisonous. Fortunately, that is a mistake that can be fixed.
And in fixing it, we should target the pain on Congress -- on the people who brought the country to this impasse -- rather than the American public at large. So we should start by shutting down Washington's airports (while maintaining full capacity at all other airports). Then, to make sure Congress can't escape its responsibilities, we'll shut down railroads and highways leading to Washington.
And if that doesn't work, I propose we furlough the furloughers -- docking the pay of Congressional members 5 percent for every day they allow the sequester to continue before legislating an alternative deficit-cutting plan. Five percent per day will focus their attention, believe me. If they do nothing to stop the sequester for 20 days, they will be paid nothing for the rest of the year (which, should it come to that, is about what Congress deserves).
So don't cancel your vacation or business trip because of the sequester. Just make sure you steer clear of Washington, our most toxic city.
Peter Scheer is executive director of the First Amendment Coalition. The views expressed here are his alone.
Follow Peter Scheer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pscheer1stA