Just two days from the sequestration deadline and Congress appears no closer to a deal as the nation sweats out another “crisis” that’s hard to define.
Democrats and Republicans have been pushing speech after speech about how bad sequestration would be if the other does not relent on their demands.
The Democrats and President Barack Obama for the most part have called for additional revenue, while most Republicans want a revenue neutral deal. There are exceptions on both sides.
And while Loudoun is waiting to see the impacts of what happens if a deal isn't reached, Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce President Tony Howard said the sky’s not likely to fall Friday.
“Nobody really knows what the future holds,” Howard said. “There’s a great recognition that it’s not like the clock strikes midnight Friday and it’s doomsday.”
But Howard said the “thoughtless” blunt cuts of sequestration are only half of the current problem. While he called such arbitrary cuts a “foolish way to operate, from a small business like an ice cream truck right on up to the federal government,” he said the uncertainty floating in the air now is as big a problem.
Such uncertainty impacts the ability to spend money because the conferences, training events and strategic planning meetings that contractors rely on can’t be planned because no one knows whether they can follow through with contracts.
“That uncertainly is the mortal enemy of a sound business climate,” he said, adding that businesses are “hoarding cash” because they’re not sure whether investments will be sound.
Among the concerns in Loudoun are various defense contractors, several of whom Howard said were not interested in weighing in on this article, and the Federal Aviation Administration facility in Leesburg. A couple of contractors contacted by Patch did not respond.
The FAA issued a general statement about all of its facilities and a spokesman would not speak specifically to the Leesburg facility. In the statement, the FAA lists the following potential impacts:
- Furlough the vast majority of the FAA’s nearly 47,000 employees, including air traffic control, for one day per pay period through September, with the potential for two days per pay period
- Eliminate midnight shifts in more than 60 towers nationwide
- Close more than 100 air traffic control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations or 10,000 commercials operations per year, which appears to include Leesburg Executive Airport
- Reduce preventive maintenance and equipment provisioning for all NAS equipment
Howard called the notion of closing air traffic towers is seems unlikely and that such talked has played into the rhetoric rather than new ideas and solutions.
Obama was in Virginia this week to talk about the impacts of sequester. U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10), who represents all of Loudoun County in Congress, has called for legislators to take the Simpson-Bowles plan developed years ago by a bipartisan commission. While Simpson-Bowles calls for new revenue and tough cuts to government programs, it resulted from a commission study, rather than a blunt cut across the board to programs, including our defense.
“The Simpson-Bowles plan offers the best road map to get our fiscal house in order – period,” Wolf said in a Feb. 27 statement reiterating his support for he plan. “There will be compromises that are painful for both parties, but we have to act now if we want to prevent a major decline in America.”
Wolf said he met with students from Loudoun this week and that they expressed concerns.
“They kept asking, ‘why is there a crisis every month?’” Wolf continued. “Their instincts are right. This isn’t the way a great nation should govern, and Washington should stop playing politics while the country suffers.”
While Wolf’s comments appear to run contrary to his own party, they are not in lock step with Democrats, who have opposed cuts to government services.
At the same time, Obama and Democrats have also sent the compromise signal, while conservative Republicans remain opposed to additional revenue after previously agreeing to tax rate increases.
So there’s plenty of talk about compromise, but little action.
Howard said business people are more interested in solving the problem than placing blame.
“In Loudoun County, they either don’t care, or they think all of them are to blame,” Howard said, meaning the president, both houses of Congress and both main political parties. The finger pointing among political leaders, he said, has solved little.
“That’s pretty much how children behave,” he said. “This is job that they actively sought. They all have a role in it.”
Howard said compromise on sequestration is a must.
“In business, you have to compromise,” he said. “If you don’t, you don’t make much money. In politics, compromise is a dirty word that will come back and hurt them on Election Day.”
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