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Op/ed: Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Congress


By Billie Greer on Jan. 11, 2013

Butch Cassidy: Alright. I’ll jump first.
Sundance Kid: No.
Butch Cassidy: Then you jump first.
Sundance Kid: No, I said.
Butch Cassidy: What’s the matter with you?
Sundance Kid: I can’t swim.
Butch Cassidy: Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you.

So went the dialogue as Paul Newman and Robert Redford jumped over the cliff and escaped to Bolivia. Congress has averted falling off at least a part of the fiscal cliff, but is a free fall in the making?

Much will depend on how Congress and the president come down on the spending side of the equation as discussions continue on how best to reduce the federal deficit and the deal with the debt ceiling.

Those discussions must also bear fruit within the next several weeks to stave off a default which would, in turn, likely hammer the U.S.’ credit rating.

The automatic cuts in domestic and military spending, required by sequestration, remain on the table. And, the impacts on California are ominous. On the “sequestered” chopping block are programs impacting the education and health of Californians and military installations which are vital to our national security.

Military spending plays a major role in fueling our economy, as well. From 2005 to 2009, an average of a million jobs were tied to national defense spending in California, more jobs than in the entire Silicon Valley.

A recent study by commissioned by the Southwest Defense Alliance indicates that should sequestration go forward, combined with earlier mandated cuts to the Department of Defense, our state will lose 336,000 defense-related jobs, along with billions of dollars in lost economic output over the next eight years. One hundred thirty-six thousand of those of those lost jobs would be attributed to sequestration.

According to Major General Dennis Kenneally, executive director of the Defense Alliance, “The president has directed that military personnel will not be cut so reductions will be in R&D, operations, training and maintenance – services that support boots on the ground. How effective can our men and women in the armed services be without this critical infrastructure?”

Congress has much to consider in the next several weeks. And, the California Congressional delegation is hard at work.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid survived the fall off the cliff despite the Kid being unable to swim. Let’s hope California is as lucky.

• Billie Greer is the president of The Southern California Leadership Council, a nonpartisan, nonprofit public-policy partnership based in Los Angeles.