Published March 23. 2013 4:00AM
As sequestration continues to roll out, or doesn't, depending on political expediency, we are repeatedly reminded what a horrible way this is to govern.
In 2011 President Barack Obama and congressional leaders approved the automatic spending cuts set for the start of this year if a federal budget weren't approved. There was the expectation that the cuts were so extreme that a deal would have to be reached beforehand. Otherwise, mandatory slashing of military and domestic spending would threaten national security, gut domestic programs and drag down the economy.
Well, they never did reach that agreement. But, as in the Aesop fable, the big-bad wolf never showed up when the first cry for help went out, and relief from the villagers settled into complacency - by all appearances just another arbitrary deadline set by our "leaders" in Washington had come and gone without much changing except, it appears, students being unable to tour the White House on their spring breaks.
When it comes to sequestration cuts, it appears some are more automatic than others. A continuing resolution approved by Congress, and expected to be signed by the president, protects some defense programs, among them plans for construction of two attack submarines per year. Good news certainly for Electric Boat, for national defense and for the health of the southeastern Connecticut economy. Also held in abeyance were civilian work furloughs scheduled at the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Groton and in the Connecticut National Guard.
But how silly can things get? The country can afford $4.9 billion to pay for building two Viriginia-class submarines this fiscal year and plan for submarine construction in 2014 and 2015, but can't afford the security associated with White House tours?
The continuing resolution also averts another crisis deadline, March 27, the date the current stop-gap spending bill was set to run out. The latest patchwork bill takes the federal government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, so circle your calendars.
This is getting so tiresome. How about compromising on a genuine budget, which sets priorities and assesses the taxes to pay for them, just like every town, city and state has to do?
Still on the radar - pun intended - are concerns about the Federal Aviation Administration's plan to close six air traffic control towers in Connecticut, including the one at Groton-New London Airport.
Connecticut's U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal are supporting legislation to block the April 7 proposed closures. The six Connecticut towers are among 170 at smaller airports nationwide threatened by sequestration's automatic budget cuts.
While Groton's airport does not have commercial flights, it is home to the Connecticut National Guard's helicopter repair facility, the 1109th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group. Presumably that entity would have to either shift some operations to other airports or rely solely on instruments during takeoffs and landings.
Elsewhere there would also be delays and, pilots warn, concerns about safety, locally and at airports across the country.
Will the towers really close April 7, or will Washington once again admit it was only a joke to scare us? Is this how sequestration will be peeled apart, congressmen fighting to exclude this or that program from the budget cutting?
We've long since lost our patience with this sort of governing and so too, we trust, have the American people.