A Sequester By Any Other Name . . . Would Probably Make More Sense

A poll out from The Hill this morning shows that about two-thirds of voters don't know what the word means. Part of the problem is that "sequester" and its definition aren't obvious bedfellows.

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Grant Taylor

While Washington officials and reporters are practically zombie-walking around town chanting “sequester” like “redrum,” a poll out from The Hill this morning shows that about two-thirds of voters don’t know what the word means. Some were even under the impression that sequestering involved pitching an elected official out of office. Part of the problem is that the word and its definition aren’t obvious bedfellows.

Sequester is set to become the fiscal cliff on 2013, yet this year’s buzzword lacks the figurative simplicity of last year’s. Yes, economists said that “fiscal slope” was a more accurate characterization, but the popular shorthand for those foreseen cutbacks in governmental financial support allowed people to get this gist. Fiscal = money-related. Going over a cliff = risky business. In The Hill poll, 25% of voters admitted that they don’t know what a “sequester” is. And almost 40% chose the wrong answer (e.g. an upcoming ruling on the federal budget by the Supreme Court).

sequester sounds like it could be just about anything:  a time when members of Congress lock themselves in a room until they come to a compromise or a person who roams around in a submarine seeking underwater adventure. The word also has many actual meanings, most as esoteric as sequester sounds. A quick flip through the Oxford English Dictionary will reveal that sequester once referred to a person who held a disputed object during a court battle–and more generally, a legal mediator. Sequestration also refers to the government seizing the goods of citizens and can even identify the formation of a sequestrum, a detached piece of bone lying within a body cavity caused by necrosis.

Here is a good definition for what it actually means in politico parlance:

sequester (n.): in government, an automatic form of spending cut enacted to resolve a gap between budget goals and appropriations; short for sequestration.

A more specific definition for the government’s current conundrum would be across-the-board cuts to domestic and defense programs that are set to go into effect on March 1, unless averted by Congress. The correct response that The Hill provided respondents in their poll was, more simply, “a package of spending cuts that will soon take effect.” In the interest of making this more clear to the public, pundits might consider using a more straight-forward moniker–like “fiscal guillotine” or “super slash,” because we all know how politicians like to plop super in front of things. (See: super committee, super PAC, Super Tuesday, Super-Duper Tuesday)

While Swampland’s regular readers would certainly have found themselves in the one-third who could correctly define the term, let us know if you have ideas for a better name in the comments below.

71 comments
notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

The actual legislation requires about 1 trillion in cuts over ten years.  This amounts to less than 10% of the budgets.  Everyone wants to protect their sacred cows and screw everyone else.  That means ultimately some agency is totally decimated while others are untouched (R's would love to kill health care/social security, D's would love to hatchet the military perhaps).  That would be really unfair.   So, this is actually a fair way to deal with the issue, everyone has to belly up to the plate.  No one disputes we are spending too much.   BO offered the grand deal, the R's did not take, so lets just move on to the calamity that is not really a calamity.  I do not believe there is not a manager in this country, public or private, that cannot find a way to cut what they spend.  From excess sq ft under ownership or lease, assets that are not used, Pentagon programs not wanted, some % of the workforce that is not efficient or contributing (like people looking at these posts during work time!).   http://www.whatthefolly.com/2012/09/25/5-key-facts-about-sequestration/

Sue_N
Sue_N

Fiscal proctology. They're just pulling it out of their asses.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

Driving home just now, I heard a story on All Things Considered about the way Boehner and McConnell have been referring to it for the past week - Boehner = the President's Sequester; McConnell = Obama's Sequester. It seems that Bob Woodward wrote a book that mentions that Jack Liu made the suggestion to Reid and now that they can't find a solution, they are trying to push the blame on Obama. Ignoring the fact that the Republicans overwhelmingly voted for it, however.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

Surely there's a more ignorant populace somewhere on Earth. We just have know idea who or where.

Ohiolib
Ohiolib

Sequastration. For workers.

jmac
jmac

"While Swampland regular readers . . . ."   Economics is not a subject that Americans follow.   The GOP has noted that fact on C-Span in a strategy meeting.   When Swamp has an article on the banks or the economy it will be lucky to get 30 comments (and the right-wing comments will ALL mention sweet little Fanny - who, btw, is suing for being mislead by the banks - thank you, Justice Dept).    The fact that the Wall Street Journal editorial page can get away with the garbage economics it supports and that there is no agreement on what almost took us to another Great Depression (or for that matter the First Depression - just ask W.)  makes the Sequester small potatoes in the big picture.   

sacredh
sacredh

Cutgasm. It's what happens when baggers even think of screwing the working stiffs.

MrObvious
MrObvious

Clifferanism - the political movement where everything has to happen in the 11th minute with dire consequences. Usually punctuated by Extort-principled - By principle favors has to be extracted or we all have to fall over the cliff together. This is to avoid Equity contortion - where some people who have gotten rich and fat in a environment stacked against true capitalism has to pay for their part. The believers of Clifferanism will defend anyone risking Equity contortion to the point of risking even the rich peoples fortune by running off the cliff.

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

 Electro-Austerity Therapy 


Congress: "Hold still, it will just hurt a minute, and the federal budget will be alll balanced..."

America: "Just a dab will do ya...?" 

Diecash1
Diecash1

I'll go with the se-crap-sture: A series of ideologically-driven budget cuts that seek to destroy the social safety net while preserving defense spending because it's sacrosanct.

grape_crush
grape_crush

>...let us know if you have ideas for a better name in the comments below

Sasquatchster (n.): in government, a large, hairy bicameral creature believed to inhabit the halls of Congress in Washington DC. Most political scientists recognize the existence of the Sasquatchster even though they consider it to be mostly a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoax.

ThirstyBarbarian
ThirstyBarbarian

Spite-ageddon --- Congress cuts off all of our noses to spite all of our faces. 

bokeh9
bokeh9

Perhaps we'll be able to recognize just how cluster-tooled we are by how often President Obama genuflects to Teh Debt in the SotU.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Voldemortization or Twilight: Breaking Everyday Workers' Backs.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

Instant Freeze-dried Austerity.


MrObvious
MrObvious

Our congress keep creating the '11th hour' messes with such ease. It's like we have a political body without the collective common sense.

sacredh
sacredh

Velocirapture. A creature designed by God to slash and kill everything that doesn't glaze the eyes of the 1%.

AfGuy
AfGuy

Financial Proctogation.  Passing budgetary legislation while having one's head firmly locked in place up one's a$$.

sacredh
sacredh

Hostigation. It's when they take the country hostage and call it negotiation.

doddeb
doddeb

Yeah, you tend to pay more attention to the cluster (I like Sacredh's term the best) when it will result in a 20% paycut, as it will with me.  Lost my sense of humor over this one, I have.  Counting the days until retirement. Unfortunately, I have two more years to put up with this nonsense. 

bobell
bobell

@Ivy_B I heard that too.  Thne I remember what John Boehner said after the legislation was passed and signed by the president: "I got 98 percent of what I wanted."  They took Obama hostage with the debt ceiling and let him pick his ransom, and now they're trying to wrap it around his neck as if he was responsible for the entire thing.

Can you spell "despicable"?

MrObvious
MrObvious

@shepherdwong 

There are, but they're ignorant because of lack of information. Our congress is ignorant out of choice or despite all the information. It's faith in ignorance.

bobell
bobell

@jmac Everyone in the country should be required to read Paul Krugman -- book, columns, and blog. Too bad that the one who need it most probably can't read.

sacredh
sacredh

Norquist lighting a cigarette: Was it good for you too?

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

@sacredh A "Backfire" is nothing unusual for a guy that's spent a lifetime talking out of his äss,,,

AfGuy
AfGuy

@bokeh9

More often than I expect to hear anything about a call to REAL action on Climate Change.

Because there are only so many things we can worry about at once, you know... and, besides, it's not like there's a point at which the damage is permanent.... wait... what??

sacredh
sacredh

Every bagger in congress is a horcrux.

AfGuy
AfGuy

@MrObvious 

That "can" is well-dented... but it definitely knows the way down the road by now.

AfGuy
AfGuy

@sacredh 

How about Velocicapture?  The rapid take-over of our financial oversight by Wall Stree "banksters"...

AfGuy
AfGuy

@doddeb 

About three years for me.

Can you imagine what the Swamp would be like with our having MORE free time on our hands??

From "ankle-deep" to "chest-deep" in snark.... virtually overnight.

sacredh
sacredh

"Unfortunately, I have two more years to put up with this nonsense."

.

Two years and 10 months for me. I paid my house off on friday so maybe I'll go earlier. 

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@bobell @Ivy_B  And it would be quite insulting to the public to assume they don't realize that the Congress passes all the laws in this country. It would be if Republicans didn't keep getting away with it. I wonder if it would be any different if the Village Scribes assigned the responsibility where it belonged instead of constantly fixating on the President.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@MrObvious I was talking about the voters (but that explains how their congresscritters get away with theirs). And everyone has teh Google so it's all by choice.

bokeh9
bokeh9

True, but my point is that any appeal to austerity during our weak recovery will inhibit the economy.  The Sequester, itself, is a nod to Republican efforts (real and blustering) to roll back 80 years of social programs under the guise "being responsible", and it's based on confusion between household and governmental economics.

sacredh
sacredh

"Can you imagine what the Swamp would be like with our having MORE free time on our hands??"

Yes, we'd be like the wingers on here that don't work and call us takers.



 

doddeb
doddeb

I have a few years left on the mortgage, but my house payment is pretty low.  My crappy little much-beloved house will be paid for a few years after retirement.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@sacredh Well, technically a horcrux is the thing that holds the evil soul that wants to live forever.

Which makes the Senate John McCain's horcrux.

AfGuy
AfGuy

@sacredh My comment on Richard Cheney disappeared.

Bet you can't guess what it said...

AfGuy
AfGuy

@deconstructiva @sacredh 

I've been waiting for this to happen... their entire philosophy precludes cooperation on any large scale for long. For them to begin to turn on each other was inevitable..

sacredh
sacredh

It's an evil, souless artifact that wants to live forever.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

@AfGuy @MrObvious  The lube makes one wonder if Santorum misses Congress or relieved to get voted out. He's probably not a happy camper having to pay for his kids' schooling now instead of sticking PA voters with the bill.

sacredh
sacredh

I love my house, but I'm going to sell it and buy a smaller one. It's too big for me to take care of when I get older. I also want to get something that my wife could manage if I croak.