Countdown to Sequestration: One Month to Go!

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OK. If you want to get picky about it, this is the same headline we ran two months ago here.

But some things have changed since that original headline went up. Congress, in its infinite wisdom, chose about a month ago to kick the sequester can down the road until March 1.

That means something like an additional $600 billion in Pentagon and related security-spending cuts over the coming decade were delayed by some 60 days. The only way to avert them is if Congress and President Obama can come up with a $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction package by then.

That is looking increasingly unlikely. Democrats are unwilling to pay for the deficit-reduction package without some increase in taxes, and Republicans are unwilling to approve sufficient new taxes to come up with a $1.2 trillion deal.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta protested Sunday that it would be “shameful and irresponsible” for Congress to let the spending cuts take effect. “We are going to weaken the United States,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press, “and make it much more difficult for us to respond to the crises in the world.”

Panetta has been among the most crying wolfest about the prospect of sequester. He certainly sounds the alarm more loudly than his likely successor, former GOP senator Chuck Hagel, who spoke of its possibility more as a management challenge. “…The security of this country is not going to be in jeopardy,” he said at his confirmation hearing Thursday. “But make no mistake; if this happens, this is going to be a severe problem.”

This is what happens when gerrymandering becomes so marbled inside the body politic – where congressional districts have become so safe for one party or the other – that compromise is toxic. When all a Republican lawmaker cares about is a primary challenge, from the right – or a Democrat, from the left – the 80% of us stuck in the middle remain unrepresented.

Way to go guys. You’re making us proud.