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Carter: Sylvester Sequester and the New Star in D.C.

Stand by for a ram my friends. The news from our nation's capitol seems to be getting more depressing by the moment. The people who have specialized in war and taxes are now moving into the arena of spectacular inconveniences. What's next: a new war to take our minds off the problems in Washington? Earlier warnings involved "the coming longer lines" at our nation's airports thanks to the FAA staffing cuts mandated by our "idiot leaders" in Washington,DC. Oh, sorry, the Congress caved on the airport lines. There must have been a giant lobby there. I guess that happens when you anger all of the air-traveling public. Do you see a bit of confusion here? 

Let me share with you the fact that I am going to Washington,DC to attend the annual fire service tribute to the people in Washington. I have had my share of entertainment over the past 25 years. Since I missed a couple Fire Caucus Dinners over the years due to fire department injuries, I am not one of the special people being honor for their perfect attendance.

I am truly pleased that the Fire Service Institute is taking the time to thank the people who have served as the bedrock of this annual pilgrimage to the halls of power. Many have been the faithful who have carried the water up the 'Hill'. However, much like Jack and Jill, we have seen situations where we all came tumbling down the hill with no water in our collective buckets. But since we are the fire service, we just keep moving and doing our work. We have a job to do. I sure wish the same could be said about the "Gang and 535" who lives under the capitol dome. They have been singularly disappointing for quite some time now. Heck, used car dealers have soared in popularity compared to Congress.

My friends, it has been my joy and pleasure to write about events of all sorts which have had an impact upon us in the fire service for nearly 40 years. I have written about life and I have written about death. It has been my privilege to makes friends around our great nation and around the world. It has been my privilege to share stories of joy and sorrow with you. Plenty of my work has involved creating commentary on leadership and organizational management. However today I am going to jump over to the world of fiction. The times dictate that I do this.

Today I am going tell you a story about a fictional character who is now riding roughshod over the manner in which our government here in the United States is supposed to operate. Let me share with you the story of a real gem of a character whose name is Sylvester Sequester. For more than a month now this fictional creation of our surly political leaders in Washington has run rough shod over the affairs of our great nation.

What has been the impact of this penurious, politically-created putz of a non-person on our world? For starters a large portion of our nation's military capability is being pulled out of front line service and placed in dry dock, so to speak. I have seen a picture from the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia which shows five of our major, nuclear carriers tied up at the dock. Doesn't anyone remember Pearl Harbor? They stacked up a whole bunch of big ships there too. My friends, I am a fan of the military. This isn't good.

These cuts all comes at a time when our enemies an licking their chops as they watch us tie up our carriers at the docks of Norfolk and ground approximately one third of our tactical fighter capability. This comes at a time when a basketball-loving, kid dictator is trying to undo peace on the Korean peninsula. Heck, the Middle East is once more smoldering. Can you say air strikes? This all comes at a time when the needs of the police, fire, and EMS world are crying out for more funding. Heck, even the White House Tours have been cut. What in the world is going on?

The worst part of this whole situation is the uneven manner in which the cuts to our government are being wrought upon us. Who brought this absurd creation to life? Let me tell you that Sylvester Sequester was created by the people who have been unable to for many years now to sit down and craft a budget which will allow for the proper functioning of our government.

Since I have been officially declared old by the federal government (Social Security and Medicare) I can recall when our government actually had a budget for each fiscal year. You know, the period which runs from October 1 of one year to September 30 of the next year. At least that is how it was back in the good old days under Bill Clinton. That is the way it is in the world of Fire District #2 in good old Howell Township,New Jersey. If we do not have a budget in place, we cannot spend money and we get smacked around by the state. But apparently there are no such similar penalties for the 'Gang of 535' in Washington,DC. 

I wonder if you know that we have been running on a number of continuing resolutions for many years now. Oh, the President introduces a budget. We have heard and read about that. We have also seen how the folks in the House of Representatives and the Senate scoff at it and then toss a few rocks at it. Then Congress proposes their budgets in the House and Senate. Then they all proceed to do nothing: Nothing that is except to yell at each other, blame each other for the mess, and then create our dear friend Sylvester Sequester.

It seems to me that our current crop of politicians is far more interested in staying in office than in governing fairly or wisely. Why else would you see such a wide array of single issue, stubborn, pig-headed, 'my-way-or-the-highway' people in the House and Senate? What ever happened to the basic element of political compromise upon which so much of our great nation has been built? 

Sadly, the trends which we see at the national level are also on display for all to see at the state, county, and local levels. Let me suggest that the manner in which my fire district operates could serve as an example for others to follow. As Chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners, it is my job to bring about consensus among our five-member board

Of course it might be a bit easier for me, given the similarity among the backgrounds of our board members. All five of us are life members and ex-chiefs of the Adelphia Fire Company which provides fire protection for our district under a continuing contractual arrangement. This means that all of us know the difficulties of leading and operating a volunteer fire department.

It also means that we each have more than 25 years' service in the fire company. We have a shared background. However, each of us is an individual and our backgrounds differ. Our view of the world is different and we see things from our own particular personal perspectives. They key to success in mu mind is to draw out each individual's position and work to blend them together into a compromise which is good for the group and good for the fire district.

As a student in high school, I can remember the rants and raves of the head of a communist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). I can recall Nikita Krushchev bellowing at the top of his lungs that his country was going to bury us. Many of the citizens of America scoffed at the time scoffed at the nerve of the man. As time has played out, perhaps he was right. I can recall a newsman of the day suggesting that the USSR was going to bury us with our own shovel. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the shovel-makers are at work in Washington, DC and Sylvester Sequester is the name of that shovel. Let me suggest that perhaps the time has come to clean house. I hold out little hope of this though, because each of us thinks our Congressperson is fine, but it is the rest of them that are all screwed up. Rest assured that I hold no similar love for the two Senators from the Great Garden State. Those two folks could be replaced by a pair of firehouse mops and we would all be the better for the effort. If it seems to you that I have been just a bit cynical and dismissive, then you have been reading my words carefully indeed.

My friends, we need to wake up before it is too late. I will be back next time around with a message for you that tells you the tale of my pilgrimage to Washington. Wish me luck. I would hate to become a drowning victim in the sea of BS that is known as Sodomon the Potomac. More to follow.