[N]ow, federally supported programs are starting to feel the impacts of sequestration. The thing is, they’re not generally the kind of programs with wealthy or mediagenic constituents. Rather, the programs hit hardest by sequestration tend to be social service programs that serve low-income Americans, those least likely to have influence in the corridors of power.John Dickerson at CBS:
The FAA compromise was insulting, a sign that loud complaints from the relatively well-off resonate louder with lawmakers than the quiet travails of ordinary Americans.
No surprise coming from the GOP, whose distance from the way most people live is why they’re losing elections. But it’s a new disappointment from Democrats, who should have stood firm. Why compromise on air traffic controllers when the federally funded Head Start program is in jeopardy, cancer clinics with Medicare patients can’t afford to provide treatment, or Meals on Wheels is struggling to provide food for seniors?
It's worth pausing for a moment to evaluate how the sequester virus has mutated during its short life. What started as a tool to focus Congress on long-term solutions to that part of the budget that needs the most attention, is now pushing Congress even further into obsessing about short-term fixes in that portion of the budget that doesn't need the attention.More on the day's top stories below the fold.
Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post looks at the Republican debt limit threat:
Republicans love the idea of extorting concessions in exchange for agreeing to a debt limit hike, and are determined to do it even when they don’t actually have any real policy demands. It’s just extortion for extortion’s sake.Switching topics to Syria, Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post urges against rushing to action:
That’s what a “post-policy party” really looks like.
President Obama is right to resist the mounting pressure for military intervention in Syria. Action by U.S. forces may or may not make the situation better — but certainly could make things worse.Here's The New York Times editors on the topic:
This assessment could change, of course. It would be reasonable to consider intervention if such action were necessary to protect U.S. national security interests or prevent the kind of genocide we saw in Rwanda. At present, neither condition is met. [...] Obviously, the president is not eager to wade into another Middle East war. Critics who are braying at him to do something — anything — to relieve the agony of the Syrian people should have to spell out just what they think Obama ought to do. [...]
Would U.S. intervention at least save civilian lives? Perhaps. But if, say, the regime responded to a U.S.-enforced no-fly zone by using its armored vehicles in even more brutal attacks against innocent towns and villages, what would we do then? Try to destroy all the tanks as well? Start using drones to blast Assad’s palaces in hopes of taking him out? Put boots on the ground?
What’s happening in Syria is enough to break your heart. But for now, the right thing to do is to stay out.
For all their exhortations, what the senators and like-minded critics have not offered is a coherent argument for how a more muscular approach might be accomplished without dragging the United States into another extended and costly war and how it might yield the kind of influence and good will for this country that the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have not. [...] There have never been easy options for the United States in Syria; they have not improved with time. And Russia and Iran, both enablers of Mr. Assad, deserve particular condemnation. Without their support, Mr. Assad would not have lasted this long. Still, the country is important to regional stability. Mr. Obama must soon provide a clearer picture of how he plans to use American influence in dealing with the jihadi threat and the endgame in Syria.Joe Nocera at The New York Times looks at injustice at Guantanamo:
On April 13, with the hunger strike spreading, the military raided the prison and put the detainees back in solitary. It says it has done so because the detainees are more likely to eat if they are not surrounded by other hunger strikers. If so, it isn’t working; there are more detainees refusing food today than before the April 13 raid. To force food into them, the military now shoves a tube down their nose, in an extremely painful procedure it called “enteral feeding.”Over at The Christian Science Monitor, Thomas O. McGarity looks at regulatory agencies and the Texas fertilizer blast:
Are there terrorists at Guantánamo? Yes. The government knows who they are and keeps them away from the other detainees. But the hunger strike is a vivid reminder that Guantánamo remains exactly what it has always been: a stain on our country.
These regulatory agencies are supposed to be protecting the public from the risks posed by unsafe workplaces, releases of toxic pollutants, and catastrophic explosions. Yet their failure to focus on the risks posed by the West Fertilizer Company is not atypical. We saw similar failures with the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion (15 workers killed, 170 injured), the 2008 explosion at the Dixie Crystal sugar refinery in Georgia (14 workers killed), and the 2008 explosion at a Bayer CropScience chemical plant in West Virginia (two workers killed).
This lack of attention to the safety of our workplaces and neighborhoods is no accident. It is the product of a concerted attack by the US Chamber of Commerce, industry trade associations, and conservative think tanks on what they see as onerous regulatory programs – but ones that were enacted by Congress over the years to protect the public from irresponsible corporate misconduct.
These opponents of government regulation learned long ago that the best way to remove the burdens of regulatory programs was to starve the regulatory agencies and bash the bureaucracy, as I spell out in my recent book, “Freedom to Harm.” Until one delves into the facts or the next accident occurs, the agencies have only the appearance of protecting the public.