Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.
Once again the country finds itself in the position of watching as our governing-by-crisis Congress confronts a looming deadline.
But this time it appears as though lawmakers are intent on doing nothing to address sequestration cuts set to kick in Friday.
Americans could soon find out for themselves that the across-the-board cuts intended to trim $1.3 trillion from the budget over the next 10 years are crude fiscal policy that will be more painful than if the two sides had been able to give a little on core issues.
The Denver Post's Allison Sherry reported Monday that if sequestration takes place, Colorado this year stands to lose $85 million in federal money and would suffer an $810 million economic hit as a result of defense-related cutbacks.
Nationally, the deal calls for $42.5 billion to be cut from the defense budget and an equal amount from discretionary spending this year.
The sequester may be the only thing that forces spending cuts on a polarized Congress but it's not ideal and it's not enough.
In releasing their latest blueprint for a compromise, former Sen. Alan Simpson, the Wyoming Republican, and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles called the looming cuts "mindless."
While acknowledging there is no perfect solution, the pair said that "we believe strongly and sincerely that an agreement on a comprehensive plan to bring our debt under control is possible if both sides are able to put their sacred cows on the table."
As we've said before, sequestration doesn't touch the big drivers of future debt: health care and Social Security. A thoughtful approach to our fiscal situation would consider those programs as well.
In order to do more than simply settle for the sequester, Democrats must move off of their opposition to entitlement reforms and Republicans must agree to additional revenues.
For the moment, it seems both sides are content to stand pat.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert blamed the stalemate on "a lack of leadership" from both sides. "The president needs to step up with his proposals. Speaker [John] Boehner needs to come to the table with his proposals. And what's happening with [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid? I mean, they haven't done a budget there for four years," Herbert told Politico on Sunday.
Sequestration was designed to be so unappealing as to force both sides to come together to put our fiscal house in order. It's a sad testament to the state of affairs in our nation's capital that we may be forced to live with such a poorly conceived plan.
The Denver Post, Feb. 26