Sequestration 2013: Few Americans Following Because Congress Cries Wolf So Much

No one cares about the sequestration, even though politicians everywhere want us all to believe that it is, like, the worst thing to ever happen thing ever, ohmygod. Their screams of terror and drama are met with shrugs and eye rolls from most of the American public — if they’ve even heard of it.

According to a Washington Post-Pew poll, only one in four Americans are following the sequestration showdown “very closely,” and only one in five understand “very well” the impact the sequestration could have. This is pretty far drop off from the fiscal cliff (pun intended), when 40% of people were watching “very closely” and 30% said they understood its potential impact.

This general lack of interest — which CNBC has aptly called “sequester blahs” — stems from the expectation that the sequestration just isn’t a big deal, because the last several times Congress has driven us to the bring of economic disaster, it has simply ended in media hype and a lot of angry shouting on Capitol Hill, only for the problem to be solved just in the nick of time — if the problem even really existed in the first place.

Congress has, in effect, desensitized us to the importance of these issues. Just when the ridiculously named “fiscal cliff” mercifully disappeared from the nation's headlines, the equally absurd “sequestration” hit the papers (hey Congress, the 80s wants your vocabulary back). 

And even though Congress is threatening us with doom — saying we’re denying kids medicine and that the TSA will get even slower and federal workers are going to get laid off in droves — the American public just doesn’t seem to believe them, nor should they. 

According to the forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers, the economy probably will take a hit for the next couple of quarters. Companies that rely on federal spending will be forced to lay off workers or cut their time, and demand for products will fall because people have less money in their pockets. But, if you continue reading, you’ll see that the economy will bounce back likely even stronger at the start of 2014.

Obama — yeah, Obama — set up this “sequestration” to force the hand of Congress to deal with the national debt. Act now, he said, or these budget cuts will go into effect and you will all hate it. The problem is that it’s a pretty crappy hand forcer. The sequestration does absolutely nothing to address the root problem of our rising national debt, which is and has always been the ballooning spending on health care and social security.

Predictions from the Congressional Budget Office show that while the sequestration would, at least for a few years, make spending more manageable, the national debt will continue to rise. A long-term solution to make Medicare and Social Security more affordable is necessary if we are to actually start spending what the nation can afford — as this spending is really what is causing our debt to spiral out of control. 

What’s the problem? Well, if Congress and the president keep pitching hissy fits over budget cuts and calling everyone names, we aren’t going to pay attention when real change is needed. We are going to flip the channel rather than listen to purposeful and needed calls for entitlement reform, and we are going to stay out of the loop when Congress reforms our tax code to be more logical and manageable.

Congress has been crying “wolf” on the nation’s problems for years — and when we’re really in trouble, the American people won’t be paying attention. It’s time for Congress to deal with reality instead of putting Band-Aids on superficial cuts they claim will cause our nation to bleed to death.

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Jessica Huseman

Jessica wrote for Mic.com until Feb. 2014. Now she's an investigative reporter at The Teacher Project, writing articles on K12 education for Slate.com. Her work has appeared in ProPublica, The Atlantic, Slate, The Dallas Morning News and Chalkbeat and more. Find her contact info and her recent work at www.jessicalhuseman.com.

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