Just What Exactly Are We Sequestering Anyway?
March 4, 2013

So let me get this straight. First we had the fiscal cliff. We made some sort of deal to avoid that, but then along comes the debt ceiling. Somehow that came and went, they were able to raise the ceiling or something, but now we face the sequester. Does anyone know what that means? Are we all gonna die, or is it something you can put some ointment on and it will clear up. Congress? Mr. Boehner? Mr. President? Anyone?

Most of us didn't understand the fiscal cliff, but it was something to be scared of. No one wants to go over a cliff. We had to make a deal. Even if it meant raising taxes on middle class families, which our President said he wouldn't do, it had to be done, right? If we didn't, we'd go over a cliff. Too scary.

Now a debt ceiling sounds scary too, but not as bad as going over a cliff. When I was little, the music from The Sorcerer's Apprentice frightened me. All that water, with more coming. It was going to fill up the room. Up to the ceiling. Ah, make it stop! Whew, like the debt ceiling, stopped just in time. I think in this case, though, they just made the ceiling higher. Disney didn't do that with the water, thank goodness.

So now that we've been scared about going over a cliff, or having debt up to the ceiling, we're faced with a sequester. A what? Juries are sequestered, but I've seen Twelve Angry Men. That means they get to order Chinese food and yell at each other until they reach a verdict. How the hell does that apply here? It doesn't seem scary, because no one knows what it means, but it has happened, and we may find out how bad it is soon.

Below is Webster's definition of the word used in strange context lately. I guess definition “2b” would apply here—placing property in custody. Which property, or whose custody, I have no idea.

1a : to set apart : segregate (sequester a jury)
b : seclude, withdraw (widely spaced homes are forbiddingly grand and sequestered)
2a : to seize especially by a writ of sequestration
b : to place (property) in custody especially in sequestration
3: to hold (as a metallic ion) in solution usually by inclusion in an appropriate coordination complex

As part of my job as a news reporter, I sometimes get to talk to important people. I spoke with Grass Valley's representative in Congress, Doug LaMalfa. In my 13-minute conversation with the staunch Republican, he couldn't define the sequester either. He used the term “political football” about a dozen times, and blamed the President, but didn't offer any real definition. There were two bits of information that were helpful, though. He said it would be up to each individual agency or department to determine what kind of cuts would be made, and Medicare and Social Security won't be affected. Good to know.

A cliff, we get. We can fall over, tumble into recession or worse. Bad. A ceiling? Not good either. Debt can fill up the room and suffocate us. Okay. A sequester? Who knows? Cuts could come, or not. Maybe we'll starve, or not. Maybe all the parks will close, or not. Maybe we won't be body scanned at the airport anymore (but that would be a good thing, right?)

So who is to blame here? I admit I haven't been watching as much MSNBC or CNN as I should have about this. Is government watering down a very scary situation, is the media not taking this as seriously as it should, or are we just tuning it out, because it's the same thing all over again? People are usually afraid of what they don't understand. It's one of mankind's worst traits, but no one seems to be afraid of this. Maybe, in this case, we should be. Or not.

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