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Why Aren't Americans Holding Congress To The Fire?

12:27 AM, Mar 1, 2013   |    comments
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Undated -- This is America. A democracy. A government of the people, by the people, for the people. When Americans wanted to bring back alcohol, they spoke out, and Congress repealed the prohibition of alcohol. When young people wanted lower the voting age to 18, they spoke out. Soon enough, we had the 26th amendment. 

But it seems we're not nearly interested in calling on Congress to find a solution to the spending crisis! Would people care more if the cuts would impact their internet service? Or their social media, instead of their social security? There's no telling, but the $85 billion spending cuts took effect at midnight. And that didn't stop legislators from leaving Capitol Hill hours before the deadline, without reaching an agreement.

So why aren't you -- the voter -- taking a stand? Thanks to public opinion polls, we know the public isn't happy with Congress, as a whole. It's approval rating is only 12 to 15 percent. Even so, John Dinan, Professor of Political Science at Wake Forest University, says 90 percent of the members of congress will be re-elected, because people like their representative.

He says most of us are suffering from what he calls of 'fiscal cliff fatigue'. "That is, it seems that every few months comes another deadline, and they get wound up, and see we've reached an agreement. And if an agreement is not reached, there are dire predictions about what will happen. At a certain point, you might say, you've cried wolf one too many times."

Dinan also talked about something called the Washington Monument Strategy. "When you're cutting something, you always want to make the people think the cuts are really bad, so you close down the Washington Monument and let all the tourists complain, 'open up the Washington Monument again.' There might be a little bit of the Washington Monument strategy going on here. That is, prediction some of the more dire cuts, to really get the public's attention."

Even if they reach an agreement, Dinan said the sequester is only cutting two and a half percent of the budget. Right now, the nation's debt is $16.5 trillion. Dinan said that kind of cut could be viewed as a small down payment.

So where do you start to get this budget balanced? For insight, we turned to someone who deals with balancing big budgets all the time: Angie Henry, Chief Financial Officer for Guilford County Schools. She said, "We would look first at dollars that are not spent on salary. Eighty-five percent of our budget is on people between salaries and benefits but we certainly would first try to look at non-salary and then possibly look at vacant positions to see if we got positions funded that people are not in at the current moment."

She also said they would look at the long-term impact, and look for other funding sources.

As it turns out, March 1st isn't the real deadline. March 27th is the date we should be focused on, as it's the deadline for setting a budget for the rest of the fiscal year.

We've made it easy for you to contact your representative and encourage them to solve the problem. Click here.

WFMY News 2

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