If you are reading this, then it's likely you're one of the 27 percent of the American people who told Pew Research that they've heard "a lot" about "sequester" -- the term most Washington politicians probably never want to hear for the rest of their careers.
Barely more than one-quarter of Americans are aware that our economy will soon suffer another congressionally manufactured crisis. After the last one, President Obama said, "Our economy didn't need Washington to come along with a manufactured crisis to make things worse. That was in our hands."
With so few voters aware of the sequester -- and probably even fewer knowing much about it -- no wonder Republicans in Congress have little motive to responsibly address the national debt. And the gerrymandering of House districts, creating large numbers of Republican-safe or Democratic-safe seats, exacerbates the ideological divide. Simply put, there's no incentive for House members to compromise, listen to national public opinion or take responsibility for what they do ... or don't do. Their seats are safe.
Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and their political strategists manufactured this impasse back in August 2011. At the time, the president proposed the sequester as a last-ditch effort to avoid a manufactured crisis over the debt ceiling. McConnell called it "a crucial step on the road to fiscal sanity" and Boehner persuaded the Republican-dominated House to vote for it.
In political-speak, a sequester is a deal designed to force Congress to agree -- i.e., compromise -- on a budget, because if it doesn't, drastic, paralyzing, unthinkable cuts automatically go into effect.
So a majority of Republicans in both the Senate and the House voted for sequester -- and then merrily refused to make any compromises. They played political "chicken" with the American economy. John Boehner boasted, "I got 98 percent of what I wanted." Later Boehner lamented that he hadn't held out for more concessions.
The idea of sequester (drastic cuts to force compromise), according to Business Insider, was "a brilliant idea and Obama should be proud of it." Proud of it because it would force compromise, not because it would allow the Republicans to filibuster and obstruct us into another manufactured crisis. Boehner urged Republican representatives to vote for sequester by saying that if they held firm on no taxes, the Democrats wouldn't dare risk cuts to domestic programs. The Republicans would once again save the wealthy from paying more taxes than their cleaning woman.
Republicans decided on this strategy months ago. It's why McConnell and Boehner voted for a very modest raise on taxes on the wealthy last December. It would allow them to say, "We already did that; not again." That strategy explains why the House went on a 10-day vacation at Boehner's direction, rather than debate and work out a compromise.
That strategy also explains why, though they voted and pushed sequester, Boehner and McConnell now say, "Don't blame us; this was all the president's idea. We compromised once. Now it's all cuts -- our way." So, while Curiosity is collecting rock samples on Mars, China is hacking our computers and our infrastructure is crumbling, congressional Republicans won't address deficit reduction rationally. Spending cuts alone will slow economic growth and keep unemployment high. Who gets hurt? The poor, the elderly, the working and the middle classes. Who benefits? Guess.
Boehner, while on vacation, wrote a column for The Wall Street Journal in which he says the majority of American people wants cuts, not taxes. Wrong. The latest nonpartisan Pew Research poll reveals that only 19 percent of the American people want strictly cuts. Seventy-four percent want both cuts and taxes.
In five years, Obama both proposed and consented to a total of $1.7 trillion in cuts, and just one modest raise in taxes on the wealthy. We have had five years of tax cuts to domestic programs. In five long years, we have had but one raise in taxes -- a modest raise on the 1 percent whose tax-cut benefits allow them to take home nearly one-third of America's total national income.
What do Boehner and McConnell propose we do? They want to cut Social Security payments. They want grandma and grandpa, who paid into Social Security all their working lives, to take a cut in the $500 to $1,500 monthly income they get to live on. If it weren't for McDonald's dollar menu, there would be a hunger crisis among our nation's elderly.
But thanks to Boehner and McConnell's risky political strategy, the country is about to go through another manufactured crisis simply to avoid a vote to close corporate loopholes that benefit a select few.
Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and NPR, and a contributing columnist to Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill.