Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Immense Economic Cost of the GOP's Intransigence

While I could not stomach watching Eric Cantor on Meet the Press - I feared losing my breakfast if I had to listen to his disingenuous lies - the show did start out with references to the looming economic catastrophe about to hit the Hampton Roads region thanks to the GOP controlled House of Representative's intransigence and willingness to allow sequestration budget cuts to begin in less than a month.   Tens of thousands will lose their jobs in this region alone.  What is perhaps even more disturbing is that the GOP no longer cares about average Americans.  In its quest to destroy the economy so as to harm Barack Obama - a quest driven frankly by racism in the GOP base - millions of Americans will suffer economic harm at the hands of the GOP.  And your rank and file GOP congressman (and congresswoman)?  They simply do not care.  Today's Virginian Pilot lets loss with a blast about what the economic costs may be in the region, but sadly fails to sufficiently lay the blame at the feet of the GOP.  Here are editorial highlights:

The Department of Defense euphemistically calls 2013 "a year of budgetary uncertainty."  That bureaucratese sugarcoats the number-crunching at the Pentagon, which is slashing training, maintenance, technology and temporary employees - and last week delayed deployment of the Truman carrier strike group -as it waits to see whether Congress can find a deal to reduce the deficit.
It doesn't begin to capture the panic in families across the region, staring into their own budgets for 2013 and seeing much worse than uncertainty. Or the worries of their friends and neighbors, their employers and the merchants who depend on their business.

It understates the apprehension of city leaders bracing for municipal layoffs, hiring freezes, furloughs and canceled construction projects.

Absent remarkable progress on budget negotiations in Washington, D.C., in the next two weeks, the Pentagon will cancel maintenance on its ships and planes, lay off tens of thousands of workers from shipyards and bases, furlough 800,000 civilian employees, delay the four-year overhaul of the carrier Lincoln and defer construction of another carrier.

In a region defined and supported by the military, the job losses - Old Dominion University economists predict between 28,700 and 42,300 jobs directly and indirectly lost in Hampton Roads - will translate to a regional recession or worse: a glut of houses on the market, falling property values, high unemployment and people moving away.

Military spending has kept this region's economy humming as long as people have called it home. The portion of the local economy dependent on defense now hovers near 47 percent, a fact that allowed this region to endure the recession better than much of the nation.

With the Truman's deployment to the Persian Gulf delayed, the Navy reduces its military presence in that region to one carrier group. Navy brass say the Eisenhower will be deployed there later this month, as scheduled, possibly to be replaced in the summer by the west coast-based Nimitz. The George H.W. Bush deployment is delayed; deployments of fast-attack submarines would be canceled. Flying hours would be cut in half. Operations in the Caribbean and around South America would be eliminated.

Hampton Roads would lose $271 million in ship repair business. Sailors would lose tuition assistance. All training operations except for sailors about to be deployed would cease. Every civilian would be furloughed for up to 22 days without pay. Air shows featuring the Blue Angels would be canceled.

The drastic reductions, Rear Adm. John Kirby told Federal News Radio, make it "harder in 2014 to preserve readiness." The ships that were supposed to be repaired and refurbished won't be able to deploy on schedule. Cancellation of training means sailors aren't as prepared as they should be. The cuts in technology mean military equipment will grow outdated.

On a parallel track, localities are looking at cuts to their construction budgets. They, too, are considering furloughs.  And, once again, leaders are wondering how to diversify the region's economy to limit the impact of sequestration.

That means improving the transportation system, he [Virginia Beach mayor Will Sessoms] said. It means luring alternative energy development and technology research to complement NASA's and ODU's modeling and simulation work. It means expanding medical centers to include research and rehabilitation facilities. It means making the city and the region inviting for entrepreneurs.

The ripple of lost military spending, especially on the scale of the sequester, means foreclosures, empty storefronts, empty houses. It's hard to think about growing and thriving when the immediate future is nothing but uncertain.  That is Congress' fault.

I'm sorry, but it is the GOP controlled House of Representatives' fault.  Let's place blame where it belongs.  As for helping the region to diversify, one of the first steps is to revolt against the Virginia GOP's 19th century social agenda which tells countless individuals and businesses that bigotry and discrimination are still the name of the game in Virginia and that progressive entrepreneurs need to look elsewhere to thrive and build their businesses.  That gay employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia can still be fired for their sexual orientation and that the Virginia GOP is actively disenfranchising minority voters send this message loud and clear to anyone observant.

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