The first time I can recall having heard the term “sequestration” was about three years ago at a conference in Phoenix, Ariz. It was a gathering of executives from the North American metals industry — manufacturers, warehouse operators and transporters of steel and aluminum mostly — along with the occasional lobbyist and journalist.
They were discussing the notion of capturing carbon dioxide emissions — CO2, for those of you’ve who stayed awake during high school general-science class — and burying it permanently deep underground. Also known as carbon capture and storage (CCS), the point was to cut down on both greenhouse gases and government interference.
Environmentalists, as the expert presenting the information at the conference noted, hate and fear the idea. (The captains of industry in the audience collectively chuckled, shrugged their shoulders and thought, “Well, of course they do.”)
But even the guy leading the session, with all his charts and PowerPoint displays, wasn’t all that certain that sequestration was a good idea, or even that it actually would work.
Now bubbling up in the political talk shows — just as environmentalists suggest that CO2 would seep back up to the Earth’s surface — comes a different use of the term sequestration. This time it refers to part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that will trigger an automatic U.S. defense cut of $500 billion — that’s billion, with a “b” as in “breathtakingly big” — before the close of 2012.
We’ve all heard the easy-target, late-night talk-show jokes about thousand-dollar toilet seats for the Pentagon. So we’ve all come to accept the Truth that there’s outrageous overspending in the Defense Department budget.
But did you catch that we’re looking at $500 billion in cuts? Such massive slashes certainly will invoke the Law of Unintended Consequences: Not only will the military have less pocket change to fritter away on bathroom niceties — or on battleships for the Persian Gulf — but there also will be a dark cloud that’ll fall over government manufacturers, too.
A National Association of Manufacturers’s report in June contended that some one million private sector jobs — including 130,000 manufacturing positions — potentially would vanish by 2014 as a result. GDP could drop by almost one percent.
We can bring this golbin a lot closer to home: Rockwell Collins President and CEO Clay Jones, who deemed the looming sequestration “devastating,” remarked it would affect jobs “in our industry, in our state and in our community.”
There are those who expect common sense to prevail in Washington, D.C., and fix this before we topple over the fiscal cliff (another phrase used in today’s punditry chatter).
Which is pretty funny if you think back to the so-called supercommittee of last year that most assuredly was going to cement a deficit reduction scheme. They failed — miserably, embarrassingly.
The only success they had was to generate more guffaws for Jay Leno and David Letterman. That’s not, I believe, exactly in their job descriptions.
Maybe if we gathered up all the appropriate Congressional committees, the White House folk and the Joint Chiefs and sequestered them deep underground for a time ….