GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Letters/My View

April 23, 2013

Editorial: Fed lawmakers can't keep selves above sequester's pain

The pain from the federal government’s sequestration cuts — those automatic federal spending cuts triggered because Congress can’t pass a budget — is being felt.

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees will take a pay cut, including about 750,000 at the Pentagon alone. And that’s extended to 200 workers based here in Gloucester, where an expected four-day furlough at NOAA Northeast regional headquarters in Blackburn Industrial Park could bring a brief shutdown of the facility.

While a number of fishermen — forced out of the business, in some cases, because of the agency’s regulations — might see true irony in that move, the fact is, it is yet another hit, however brief, on the city’s economy if it means that even some of those 200 workers won’t be in town supporting local businesses. And that just adds to the problems posed by other reductions, including to Defense contracts held by other local companies.

But one group is curiously absent from the pain — the very group creating the mess because they aren’t doing their jobs.

Members of Congress won’t take a pay cut because their pay is exempted from the sequester.

Under a Reagan-era law — when the sequester idea was first introduced — certain spending is exempt from automatic cuts, including, reasonably, Social Security, interest on the debt and Pell grants. But it also protects the pay of members of Congress and the president — though President Obama announced that he’d return 5 percent of his pay during the sequester.

Congress could vote to cut its own pay, although by law the cut wouldn’t take effect until after the next election. Of course, there is nothing stopping all members from giving 5 percent of their pay to a charity or back to the federal treasury.

But at the very least, the leadership in both chambers needs to take a cut for failing to get a budget through Congress.

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