Just about everybody is familiar with the bureaucratic concept of “turf.” As in, “That’s my turf.” In other words, stay off.
However, experience indicates that there is an associated bureaucratic concept which is much less widely recognized: “grass.” As in, “That’s my turf – so don’t you tell me that I need to cut the grass.”
Both “turf” and “grass” are at play in the current high-level dispute over the sequester of federal spending. It is worth a review of the bidding thus far.
The sequester was written into law in the debt-limit deal of August 2011. It was intended to be a fail-safe device in case the so-called “Supercommittee” failed to achieve its goal of $1.2 trillion of budget savings. The Supercommittee duly failed. The sequester was postponed from the beginning of this year to the beginning of this March – i.e., Friday. The two parties in Washington argue over whose idea it was, who voted for it, and whose intransigence is causing it now to appear inevitable. Those questions may be of academic interest, but not much more.
The importance of Who Shot the Federal Government As We Know It is limited because there is little dispute that the sequester is a Bad Thing. Oh, there are some who say that there is a debt crisis going on, and so we must cut something. But just about everyone recognizes that the sequester will not solve the problem. More specifically, even those who would accept the sequester with the least remorse understand two facts: First, if we do not have the sequester, the federal government’s finances will explode without fundamental reform of health care. And second, if we do have the sequester, the federal government’s finances will explode without fundamental reform of health care. The sequester will only buy time. A little.