It is estimated there are 30,000 civilian employees at Fort Bragg, Camp LeJeune, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station and the Coast Guard Air Station. These jobs are not only vital to those employees but also essential to our state’s economy. Unless something happens before December 31, we stand to lose as many as 20,000 of those jobs.
During the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, when America came dangerously close to defaulting on its financial obligations, a “poison pill” provision was passed by Congress, promising that increases in our country’s debt ceiling would automatically trigger spending cuts if Congress failed to otherwise fix our budget and debt problems. These automatic cuts are known as sequestration, the action of making a general cut in government spending. The agreement calls for 1.2 trillion dollars in cuts and, while they come from all government sectors, 500 billion dollars from defense spending and stand to affect North Carolina dramatically. Payroll is the largest portion of government spending so the fastest way to cut budgets is by eliminating civilian employees.
It will come as no surprise that Congress has been unable to reach agreement. Recent headlines reveal the partisan, contentious and unproductive stagnation in Washington. One house, controlled by one party, passes legislation they know will not be approved by the other house, controlled by the other party. The gamesmanship would almost be humorous if the stakes weren’t so high and consequences so dramatic.
We encourage honest debate and examination of government size and spending; neither are we defending or condemning America’s defense budget, although it must be noted that America is unequalled in defense appropriations, amounting to more than the next twenty countries combined. And despite what some might have you believe, defense spending has actually increased, not been cut.
The states that will bear the brunt of these defense cuts will be Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire and North Carolina, most of which are political battleground states.
Congress is set to adjourn next week so elected representatives can campaign for election. It will reconvene in mid-November, for a “lame duck” session following the elections and has until December 31 to find a solution or face another dramatic showdown, called a fiscal “cliff,” that automatically triggers tax increases and sequestration.
All 13 Congressional seats in our state are up for election in November and you can bet candidates will be asking for your vote. Right now you have some leverage with them and you can play a big part by raising your voice and asking for action. They need to hear that we care little about their political games or who might be right or wrong. We also implore them to stop these frequent fire drills.
When our Congress returns in November we encourage them to avoid dramatic and painful extremes. Compromise is the order of the day and statesmen are needed. North Carolina’s precarious economy can ill afford to lose thousands of jobs at one time. Let us put aside party and partisan interests and do what is best.
— Tom Campbell is former assistant North Carolina State Treasurer and is creator/host of “NC SPIN,” a weekly statewide television discussion of NC issues airing Sundays at 6:30 a.m. on WRAL-TV and at 8:30 a.m. on WRAZ-TV FOX50. He can be reached at www.ncspin.com.