Washington DC in February is always a hotbed of activity. The Nation's Governors are in town. Lobbyists are busy getting their issues before as many decision makers on the Hill as can be fit into a 24-hour day. Congressional members are working frantically to complete constituent work ahead of the Easter Break. Don't forget the occasional mid-term fundraiser or two. This year though is a bit different.
Sequestration is the focus in our Nation's Capitol and in statehouses all across America including Guam. Today, President Barack Obama called for Congressional leaders to meet to resolve $85 Billion dollars in across the board cuts to the Federal Governmentexpected to go in effect at 3pm Friday Guam time. There has been well-publicized plans by the U.S. Senate to reprogram the cuts-but they may not have enough votes to pass. Realistically, the last minute activity may not result in anything positive.
The cuts will happen and they will be deep.
For Guam what does it mean? Government of Guam staffers and Executive Branch Agency Directors are asking their federal counterparts for a breakdown of what to expect over the remainder of this fiscal year. The information has been slow in coming. Real slow. Even Guam Governor Eddie Calvo, who is in Washington DC at the writing of this post is sitting ringside for this battle between the White House and Congress, can't even get the details on the impacts to Guam -a serious, yet predictable, oversight by federal appropriators. Guam Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo is in the same boat-the senior stateswoman left asking more questions and unable to get back solid details either of the impacts of the mandatory federal cuts to the Insular Areas. Even Guam Legislative Speaker Judy Won Pat is reportedly trying to rally staffers to get information that may impact Guam General Fund-funded programs and services into the final two quarters of FY 2013.
Locally, there is plenty of speculation of what may happen in the days and months to come. COMNAVMAR is saying there will be an impact, but no official word on a detailed process to reduce costs-mainly personnel. The list of discretionary and mandatory programs impacted by cuts is huge and touches the broadest section of the Guam community. Federally funded activities from housing to conservation to healthcare on island will not be spared pain from the lack of federal action by Congress. This is not a good sign for an isolated American economy that was turning a corner with the surge in our number one economic engine-tourism.
What plays out between the Obama Administration and Senate and House Leaders will be telling. But I can tell you-this has been coming for years. With no real budgets passed during the President's first term, did we really believe that Continuing Resolutions would keep America going? Is this the new normal in the United States? I think this whole Sequester thing is more of a lesson in decision making-or lack of it. Elected leaders were given the mantle of leadership by the electorate. Each elected to do their jobs to run the business of our Great Nation. They have nothing to show for their effort. In the end, it is the electorate that will ultimately suffer for the inaction of nearly five years.
We should all be concerned about the actions in Washington DC in the coming days. We should have been concerned four years ago with the election of the Democrat President and majorities in the House and Senate. Though the balance of power is somewhat different, Washington DC is still working full steam ahead like nothing is wrong with our economic and social well being.
The Sequestration issue will have long term affects on the delivery of public services from Maine to California and from Puerto Rico to theNorthern Mariana Islands. Not a single American will be spared. Each of us relies in some way or form on federal services and the corresponding impact on local government programs that serves our greater community. I say-keep an eye on this matter which could change the way America delivers services to its citizenry including those in Guam.
Don't worry the rest of the world is watching too, as they will be impacted by America's budget fight and implications that will fall well into the months and years to come.
Let's hope March is a better month for us all.