Published Feb. 27, 2013, in The Waterloo Region Record.
It is ironic that in an American Congress where members are divided along party lines, and seem barely able to agree upon the time of day, one of the few laws they have passed authorizes a budget sequester which is being decried on all sides, and threatens to disrupt an already tepid economic recovery in the US. The explanation of course, is that the sequester was never supposed to happen. It was a miscalculation by both Republicans and Democrats that by adopting threatening tactics they could jointly frighten each other into compromising upon financial offsets, to permit the House of Representatives an extension of the debt ceiling, which was itself a threat to force the president into spending cuts without reciprocal revenue increases.
This all dates back eighteen months when the American economic outlook was even bleaker than it is today, and President Obama was apprehensive about the impact of a crisis precipitated by Congress to force an economic default, prior to the 2012 presidential election. He and congressional Democrats hoped that if they spared the mandatory entitlement programs, the fear of a mutual reduction in domestic discretionary spending as well as defense spending, might motivate Democratic and Republican legislators to break their ideological impasse on other expenditures.