Filler: The sequester begs for a scarier name

Listening to the Republicans and Democrats argue over Listening to the Republicans and Democrats argue over taxes and spending is now like listening to our grandparents argue about whether to watch "Matlock" or "Murder, She Wrote." Photo Credit: iStock

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Lane Filler Portrait of Newsday editorial board member Lane Filler

Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board. He came to Long Island in 2010 ...

It was only eight weeks ago that the nation stood at the brink of the "fiscal cliff", but I'm already nostalgic. Compared to the yawns and channel-surfing the sequester is inspiring, the fiscal cliff response was like one of those Japanese monster movies where the Tokyo residents run in terror as cars are crushed by huge green feet.

Part of the difference is the names. "Fiscal cliff" isn't the scariest phrase, but for inspiring panic, it beats the Underoos off "sequester." "Fiscal cliff" at least has a precipice that we can picture ourselves plummeting from, pushed by heartless career politicians as they giggle and sip martinis.

"Sequester" sounds like an online system you use each semester to register for your college courses. If only the media had called the looming spending trims "Death Cuts 3000" (3000 is the most frightening number ever) instead.

But the name is just the beginning of the problem. The "sequester" is the automatic cuts set to go into effect today that will pare about $85 billion from federal spending this year. But selling that as scarier than having Newt Gingrich and Charlie Rangel show up at your hot tub party wearing Speedos and carrying a case of raspberry wine coolers, as the Obama administration tried to do earlier this week with its doomsday scenarios of uninspected meat and teacherless teens, is now impossible. Normal people are blocking out the political fracas.

Listening to the Republicans and Democrats argue over taxes and spending is now like listening to our grandparents argue about whether to watch "Matlock" or "Murder, She Wrote." The first 37 times, you take sides. "Angela Lansbury is a saucy vixen," you argue, but your sister opines that Andy Griffith's brand of stubborn curmudgeonliness is what made this nation great. You believe they can resolve it and move on to debating whether to set the thermostat on 81 or 91.

But eventually, you'd see no progress toward a resolution, tune them out and spend your visits looking for the medical marijuana hidy-hole.

That's where we are with the Democrats and the Republicans. Our politicians lack the will to resolve the stalemate over taxes, spending, the deficit and entitlements. And we can't find Congress' hash stash.

Before the fiscal cliff, there was the debt ceiling. Next up is the battle over whether to keep funding the government, which comes to a head on March 27. Then the debt ceiling again.

I say let the sequester cuts kick in. I don't think they'll be that bad, but I wish they would be. I want airports full of disgruntled fliers and aircraft carriers running out of fuel and floating around like becalmed catamarans. I want mohair subsidies to peter out, leaving us sweaterless and irksome.

If something terrible happens, maybe we'll stop electing, from both parties, cowardly, shallow, self-interested, job-security obsessed weasels.

Tax revenue is far too low to pay our bills. The future costs of Medicare and Social Security will crush our economy if we don't make changes. And the vast majority of folks we send to Washington are in such safe seats that they do more for their election chances by refusing to compromise than they would by indulging in good governance.

Weighing in on which party is right in this sequester quarrel is like clarifying who's cheating more in a shuffleboard game on a sinking Titanic. That's why you don't really care, and I don't blame you.

It's more entertaining to use your time devising an awesome name for the next fabricated governing disaster.

Do you think our elected officials might get off their Underoos and do their jobs once we're facing "Thermonational Meltdown . . . 3000"?

Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board.

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