December 31, 2012

Rosalind S. Helderman’s Dec. 30 front-page story “With no solution in sight, deep cuts are all but certain” included this quote from Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.): “You do need cuts. But sequestration is not the way to go. It’s literally a meat ax without any thought behind it.” 

As much as I like Mr. Wolf, this statement was illogical, especially so with sequestration having loomed on the horizon for as long as it has. If there are any agency or program managers potentially subject to sequestration cuts who have not already set their funding priorities, then shame on them. Even without the threat of sequestration, agency heads and managers had better have priorities or they are not doing their jobs well. 

Now, with sequestration having been in the headlines for months, it seems inconceivable that managers have not prioritized their funding needs so they can go to their already prioritized list and cut from the bottom up until the mandated percentage is reached. If there are any agency or program managers out there who will be caught flat-footed by a sequestration-mandated cut, they should be relieved of their positions.

For most managers though, the meat ax should fall at a very well thought-out funding line. This won’t make the cut less onerous, but with the planning that should routinely be done anyway, the programs or functions cut should not be the result of a last-minute decision.

Allen K. Mears, McLean

Regarding the Dec. 29 editorial “Three more days”:

On a visit to the Washington on Memorial Day weekend of 2003, I purchased a copy of The Post. A front-page story foretold the current economic situation. Congress stayed up late the night before to pass a $350 billion tax-cut bill. Vice President Dick Cheney cast the tie-breaking Senate vote. The only House Republican to oppose it was Iowa’s Jim Leach.

The headline on Jonathan Weisman’s analysis was “A payoff now, paying the price later.” In a news story on the same page, Mr. Weisman wrote, “The tax cut marks an unprecedented shift of taxation away from investment income, which the White House and congressional Republicans hope will jolt the economy into job-creating growth.” 

The same day’s Style section featured then-Sen. Robert Byrd, who decried the needless slaughter of the Iraq war and the binge of defense spending, and asked, “What is happening to us?”

Congress and the president manufactured the fiscal cliff by extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts; by undeclared, credit-card wars; and by their focus on reelections. To hope for equitable tax and spending measures is irrational given Washington’s dysfunction. That’s what is (still) happening to us. 

Kate Milligan, Des Moines

In his Dec. 29 column “Make the middle class pay more,” Marc A. Thiessen made a compelling argument why the middle class needs to be part of the tax-hike solution to the federal government’s long-term deficit.

Like Mr. Thiessen, I did not cast my vote for bigger government in the November election, but I nonetheless accept the will of the voters. As a middle-class taxpayer, I acknowledge the fact that government services, a strong national defense and comprehensive entitlement programs cost money. I also understand that the wealthiest 2 percent of our population cannot shoulder the total burden of our very large budget shortfall. The wealthy may have deep pockets, but they are not nearly deep enough to cover the entire budget gap. The wealthy also receive a small fraction of total government services, despite contributing a disproportionately large percentage of tax revenue.

What’s needed is balanced and sustainable tax increases. Any long-term solution to our budget problems must include participation of a larger cross-section of the voting and tax-paying population.

George Simons, Fairfax

The Post’s Dec. 28 front-page headline was, “Leaders to meet on edge of ‘cliff’.”

While The Post of course mean the fiscal cliff, I’d bet a majority of attentive citizens wish it was a physical cliff and that they’d all fall off. It’s unfortunate what losers winners can be.

Harry Viener, Burke