Our viewpoint: Washington needs more solutions, less bickering

An age-old political game is taking the United States to the brink of fiscal calamity once again. This time, with "sequestration" set to take effect Friday, the objective once more appears not to be to find a political solution, but only to lay blame at the feet of the other side.

Here's an idea for Congress and the White House that no one in Washington seems capable of understanding any more: Stop blaming and start governing. That is the only reason we sent you there in the first place.

At issue are automatic budget cuts. Starting Friday, the government is legally required to "sequester" tax money that pays for services upon which Americans have come to depend. The cuts will be huge and across-the-board, and they will hurt.

On that, Democrats and Republicans do agree.

Sequestration was not supposed to occur. It was enacted in 2011, with the support of President Obama, as a way to deter this kind of budget crisis.

No one thought it would come to pass because it was so drastic a step. The idea: Force both sides to cut the deficit — which still hovers around $1 trillion annually. It hasn't happened.

Congressional Republicans blame the Democratic White House for sequestration being enacted in the first place; the White House blames Republicans.

Republicans want to reduce the deficit through spending cuts; Democrats want to do it with revenue increases and limited expense reductions.

And therein was birthed the latest political logjam.

The implications of sequestration are potentially enormous for the military communities in Roosevelt and Curry counties and elsewhere in New Mexico.

The Defense Department will have to cut $46 billion for the seven months left this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., called the cuts a "self-inflicted wound" that are "poised to cripple our military forces in just a few days."

Lame-duck Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has notified the Pentagon of the need to furlough non-essential civilian personnel if both sides fail to reach a budget deal by Friday.

What does that mean for Cannon Air Force Base? It means at least a portion of Cannon's civilian work force could get sent home without pay one day a week for 22 weeks. Training is likely to be greatly reduced. All of that could detract from base personnel's readiness, a circumstance Americans should deem unacceptable and dangerous to our men and women in uniform.

We take sides in the blame game, by the way. We blame all parties who have created this never-ending budget and sequestration debacle.

New Mexico's U.S. Senate and House delegations share this responsibility with their Capitol Hill colleagues and the White House.

The vast majority of those in power declare they oppose sequestration as a serious budget-reduction strategy. Polls show a huge majority of Americans oppose it too.

So where is the action to back up the words? What is the avenue that both congressional houses and the White House can agree on to achieve a compromise that will derail this catastrophe?

They need to find it. Immediately.

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