In all the brouhaha about sequestration, something very important has been overlooked. Yesterday Speaker of the House John Boehner quietly - ever so quietly - announced that the House would next week authorize the continuing budget resolution, i.e. NOT shut down the government as Newt Gingrich did back in the 1990s.
The government shutdown in late March had been trumpeted by the pundits as the next D.C. awfulness, the next GOP tantrum in the playpen. It was supposed to be the GOP's top trump card in demanding more cuts in federal spending, especially cuts in Medicare.
So why did Boehner back off? He likely recalled that Gingrich cut off his own nose by pulling this shutdown stunt in the '90s. On the other hand, this isn't the '90s, and the GOP right wing lives in the fantasy that the American public cares more about deficit reduction than anything else.
I think Obama is the factor that deterred Boehner from threatening a shutdown. Obama accomplished this by having simply refused to give in on the sequester, just as he had refused to give in on the fiscal cliff or the debt ceiling threat. After three recent failures to extort action from Obama, Boehner now knows that threats aren't going to move the President to do what Obama thinks is harmful for the people. If Boehner threatens a bad deed, he'd better be prepared to back off or deliver on it and take the rap for it. Obama will not rescue him any more.
This is good. Bullies and extortionists must not get their way. But standing up to them can be painful because sometimes they follow through on their threats. That's what the GOP is doing regarding the sequester. So far the polls show the public is blaming them for the whole mess even before the worst of it arrives. But that doesn't help the victims of the sequester - the folks who will lose their defense jobs, the kids who won't be able to get into Head Start, the elderly who will no longer get help with their food, and many others who will suffer. Is there anything we can do to help them? Yes, indeed!
We can do what we always do. Be good neighbors to those who are going to suffer. We may not be able to do much for the out-of-work defense worker besides helping out with sacks of groceries and other neighborly assistance. But we can do plenty for those little kids who are going to be left without Head Start or child care. We can take these kids under our wing. We can read storybooks to them, give them coloring books and crayons and "art" paper, teach them songs and games, help them learn their letters. We can be the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins they lack. And we can get our churches to set up day care and pseudo-Head Start. (If the church says the insurance doesn't cover this, take up a collection to extend the insurance!)
We can also help the elderly poor who won't be getting the food support they had before sequestration. Can't you and your neighbors feed just one elderly person part of the time? And how about the heating oil assistance that will be cut back next winter. You going to let your elderly neighbor freeze?
What about the poor souls stuck in the long lines at the airports because of the fed cutbacks in personnel? Well, we can't fix that but we can certainly remind the public whose fault it is. How about a coffee cart going up and down the lines with a free cup of coffee and a printed reminder that the GOP made this mess.
Because that's the problem. People adapt and forget. Especially if the shoe isn't pinching them. We need to keep reminding the people about the dirty deal that sequester is. Don't kid yourself; the environmentalists - God love them! - will be screeching about the cutbacks at the national parks and in fire-fighting. But who will speak for the old, the little kids, the fragile?
WE MUST! These folks are taking it on the chin for the rest of us. They are going to be squeezed now so that our present and future Medicare and Social Security won't be reduced. That's what the sequester is about and why Obama hung tough. WE OWE THEM!
And if you belong to Obama's new Organizing for America, which has replaced the campaign organization, let them know that it should do something to help the victims of the sequester.
And for heaven's sake, do all this with publicity! This will spread the good example and also keep alive public awareness of what heartless wickedness the GOP has done.
Obama was a community organizer. You be one too. Help those people who are taking it on the chin for the rest of us!
And for this, as they sang on the Sabbath in "Fiddler on the Roof", may the good Lord protect and defend you. Not that you should need much defending from three-year-olds!
P.S. If you don't know how to get publicity, just post a comment asking for help. Publicity was my thing. And if you do reach out to others harmed by the sequester, let us know. We need your little candle in the dark world! Or keep it to yourself in modest quiet. But just DO IT!