So, every day for the past month or so we have been told that we are nearing a "fiscal cliff" and without a "grand bargain" we will "go over" it and "bad stuff" will happen to us, the American people. Now, in my capacity as a real-keeper, I must tell you that the size and depth and horrors of the potential "bad stuff" has all been overblown by partisans and a political media that understands tragically little about the underlying issues. But the simple fact of the matter is that if we spend too long on the other side of the "fiscal cliff" without mitigating the austerity that will ensue with some amount of deliberation and expedience, it will eventually have negative impacts on the economy.
So, now we know what it's like to be on or near or around a "fiscal cliff" -- it's an environment of panic and ignorance that eventually starts costing you and me. And it's important to remember how we came to be on or near or around the "fiscal cliff": lawmakers in Congress went on a long, long jag of incompetence and neglectfulness, during which they passed their responsibility back and forth and into and out of various commissions and committees, accomplishing nothing, until they ultimately decided that what they needed to motivate them to act was an assurance that inaction would cause a number of terrible policies to be triggered all at once, to the detriment of the American people. Surely, knowing that their dithering would directly harm ordinary Americans would motivate them to go to work, at long last.
Ha, ha: no!
So whether you believe that immediate doom ensues at the moment we go over the cliff or not, I think it's pretty obvious that setting up an elaborate series of triggers that fire right into the face of the American people as a punishment for the galactic incompetence of your idiotic lawmakers is not something that we should repeat. But now I read this piece over at the Morning Joe blog (yes, the "Morning Joe Blog" is something I didn't realize was happening until now), which reports that a "Sequester II" -- a second batch of the sequestration cuts that form the most painful part of the so-called "fiscal cliff" -- is being mulled in some quarters as the means by which we get an agreement on reforms to earned benefit programs.
Ugh, here we go:
“In terms of entitlements, this is going to be a two-step deal, we’re going to have to have some sort of down-payment that gets us past the cliff, where we agree on the broader outlines in terms of what this program will look like,” Morning Joe economic analyst Steve Rattner explained on Thursday’s show. “Then we’re going to be working well into next year in order to do the entitlements work, to do the tax work. One thing that hasn’t been figured out is the enforcement mechanism.”
Meet the Press’ David Gregory added that a second sequester, or batch of automatic cuts, is the most likely enforcement mechanism.
No, no, no! This is the exact wrong way to go about it. The problem with the sequester cuts is the same problem that we see in the "fiscal cliff" scenario: it threatens ordinary American citizens. If lawmakers were actually motivated to save or help ordinary American citizens, they would not send so many of them off to die hopelessly in Afghanistan. If you tell lawmakers that their failure to act will imperil their constituents, they will not act. I feel that recent history overwhelmingly confirms this.
"Instead of coming up with schemes to hurt the American people if no grand bargain is reached," Matt Yglesias suggests, "come up with a scheme to hurt the politicians in question." Exactly. If we come to the point where we are talking about a second set of sequestration "trigger" cuts, then we need to aim the trigger at lawmakers. Your lawmakers will never be motivated by the pain that could be visited upon you, so we need to force them into a position where they start bearing the cost for their incompetence.
Ideally, the punishments meted out should begin reasonably and eventually proceed to levels that are both cruel (so that it really hurts them) and comedic (so that we can all enjoy it). So, let's say that their failure to act should trigger a massive reduction in their take-home pay, right off the bat. After another week of inaction, they lose their office funding. A third week costs them their family health benefits. A fourth week costs them their privileges. After five weeks, they get punched in the face every day. And we continue from there, until their punishments are so severe and their public humiliation so acute that they are desperate to come to an agreement.
Naturally, we live in a free society, and there is no reason why anyone should feel forced to endure this if they don't want to, so I'll suggest that any lawmaker who cannot endure this pain is allowed to end it immediately by using the "safe word," which in this case would be, "I resign, effective immediately."
If we must have some set of triggered mishaps and punishments, then this way probably leads to better overall outcomes for actual human Americans than any other. So anyone who suggests any other kind of "Sequester II" is a straight-up monster.
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