I’ve been waiting for several weeks to tackle this word, hoping that it wouldn’t be necessary. But it looks as if the inactivity of Congress on the matter of finance is going to make sequestration a reality, so let’s take a look at the word. Check out this historical piece from Online Etymology Dictionary.
Sequester: late 14c., from O.Fr. sequestrer (14c.), from L.L. sequestrare “to place in safekeeping,” from L. sequester “trustee, mediator,” probably originally “follower,” related to sequi “to follow” (see sequel). Meaning “seize by authority, confiscate” is first attested 1510s.
What I find interesting from this definition is that the word sequester started out as a positive word, having to do with securing something by putting it into safekeeping. Within a century, however, the word had taken on a new meaning, which has more to do with forcefully taking resources from someone or some body as in “to confiscate.”
This word study is helpful when putting it into the context of what is happening in Washington, D.C., at the moment. Rather, it is helpful when putting into the context of what is NOT happening. Several months ago the sequestration was proposed and approved as a method of “kicking the can down the road” on establishing a frugal budget for the country and reducing the impact of spending on the national debt and deficit. There was a lot on the table at the time, and it seemed (to those in charge) that it was a reasonable thing to do.
The threat of instituting across the board cuts in every budget over which the federal government has authority seemed benign at the time. That means that dramatic cuts would be made in the military, the border patrol, health benefits for the elderly, day care for little children in poverty, air traffic control, the FBI/CIA/ATF and all the other alphabet agencies, and so on. You get the picture. Some of the cuts would be felt gently; most of them would be a disaster for our safety, progress, and general well-being of the people of the United States.
Congress and the White House enacted the sequestration legislation, believing that it would be a dramatic threat to themselves to enact legislation which would prevent it from going into effect. Surely, nobody wanted to see such wanton limitation of funding for vital services. Certainly, by the time the sequestration would go into effect the powers that be would find a way to come together to shape legislation that would prevent it from being enacted.
However, in the current atmosphere of mistrust, power-waging, and self-preservation being displayed in Washington, Congress and the White House didn’t come together in this way. In fact, they moved further apart. We are now just days from the deadline and we are not even close to a solution which would prevent sequestration. Unbelievably, Congress took a week’s vacation, pretending not to hear the clock ticking!
What is being demonstrated in Washington is not only fiscal irresponsibility, but wanton disrespect for the very people who put the leaders into office. Game-playing at the expense of the American people is inexcusable. Hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs if this sequestration goes into effect, adding to our already catastrophic unemployment in this country. Businesses will close down, the economy will tank (again) and we will be right back where we were just two or three years ago. Maybe worse.
It is no longer embarrassing to watch the Washington debacle. It is so offensive that it escapes words.