The next episode in the unending drama from Washington is the sequester, scheduled for March 1.
The spending cuts that would come with sequestration are bad for everyone, but especially bad for areas like north Alabama that rely heavily on military expenditures.
The idea behind the spending cuts was that they would be so painful to both parties they would force compromise. The plan was part of the deal reached in 2011 when the GOP-controlled House threatened to block a debt-ceiling increase.
The House's threat to force the United States into default brought the president and Democrats to the bargaining table.
Most economists believe cutting spending in a weak economy is a mistake. While the deficit is a concern, short-term government spending is needed to stabilize the economy.
Once stabilized, they believe, private-sector growth will reduce the deficit by generating tax revenue. When the economy recovers, it can absorb significant spending cuts.
The House rejected economic advice, however, and used its debt-ceiling leverage to demand the blunt package of spending cuts that would cut about $1 trillion in spending.
Because of its high poverty rate, Alabama depends heavily on programs that benefit the poor. The good news is the sequester the House negotiated has little impact on these programs.
If the sequester takes effect in March, it will not reduce spending on Medicaid, food stamps or Social Security. Pell grants are safe. Medicare would sustain harmful cuts to providers, but there would be no direct reduction in benefits.
The bad news for north Alabama is that half the cuts will come from the defense budget. Redstone Arsenal and the many defense contractors that support it would suffer.
According to a study quoted by Gov. Robert Bentley, the sequester would eliminate at least 24,000 jobs in the state.
If the sequester worked as intended — merely a tool to force Republicans and Democrats in Washington to come up with less damaging spending cuts — the threat to north Alabama would be minimal.
More and more House Republicans, however, are saying they will let sequestration go forward. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Sunday, "I think the sequester is going to happen."
Since the cuts do little damage to the programs most valued by Washington Democrats, sequestration is a distinct possibility.
The clumsy package of spending cuts is a product of House Republicans who were willing to play chicken with the debt ceiling. Some of the most reckless representatives are from Alabama.
The unfortunate irony is that Alabamians will pay a high price for the actions of the representatives they elected.
The economic damage from poorly timed spending cuts will derail the state's slow economic recovery.
Because half the spending cuts come from the military, north Alabama will suffer more than most of the nation.
Alabama sent ideologues to Congress. Elections have consequences, and in this state those consequences could be severe.
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