Sequester, Voting Rights Act and the Pope’s Silver Lining

As you all know, higher ed isn’t sequestered from this thing called “sequester,” and it’s taking a big hit — an estimated $86 million in cuts that will hurt mostly lower- and middle-class students dependent on federal grants and work-study programs.

It’s hard to like either Congress or the Obama administration for this sequestration nonsense. The manufactured budget cuts were intended to be so onerous, in theory, that both sides would be forced to come to their senses and “do the right” thing.

Instead, the small government advocates in Congress love the macho masochism of doing nothing and can think of nothing better than to blame President Obama.

Meanwhile, the blame game seems to suit the president just fine for now, though he should be pointing out that there’s a better way toward an improved economy than the forced austerity of sequester (look how that worked in Europe). Instead of finger-pointing, Obama should be making the case that more government spending actually propels the middle class and the country toward prosperity. And that government as an employer can be more effective than the private sector in getting us back on track.

But he must figure that’s way too logical for the GOP, which holds on to discredited trickle down ideas that justify tax breaks for the rich while making all the rest of us pay.

So far, I don’t sense much indignation on anyone’s part. More of a resignation that this is how it’s supposed to work.

That’s too bad. Because the pain is coming over time as the federal money flow stops. Will we appreciate so-called “big government” then? Or will the “small government” folks win out and force all of us to accept a diminished democracy?

Voting rights a “racial entitlement”?

So now that we’re so disgusted with Congress, should we trust it to preserve our basic right in America — the right to vote?

Some members of the Supreme Court apparently don’t think so, and based on the SCOTUS hearing last week in Shelby vs. Holder, it looks like the court may strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

Justice Antonin Scalia made the case that Congress, which has upheld the Voting Rights Act since 1965, has only done so because politicians are too afraid to vote against it. Afraid to be racist? Not Scalia, who referred to the Voting Rights Act as a “racial entitlement.”

Entitlement? Since when does voting become like Medicaid and Social Security?

See my piece at www.aaldef.org/blog

One silver lining: the pope

This week, as the world’s Catholics find themselves pope-less, there is one positive takeaway in Pope Benedict XVI’s historic abdication.

When something’s never happened in six centuries, that usually means the chance at a tremendous opportunity. It also means tradition can’t be used as an excuse anymore. Saying, “That’s the way we’ve always done things” no longer works. Not even in the Catholic church. There’s a chance for something new.

So maybe among the cardinals, there will be a discussion of things like moving toward a less racist and sexist church. Will there be a Pope from the third world? An African perhaps? Will there be a discussion of making celibacy optional? (Why limit your leadership to celibate males?) Or how about a real discussion to get women out of the nunnery and into the priesthood?

Pope Benedict’s first in six centuries gift to all of us is the gift of perspective.

You think it’s hard getting a minority person into a tenured position? A high level executive post?

Try applying for pope.

It really is easier for a Black man or woman to be a CEO in America.

So when you think it’s hard fighting for diversity, affirmative action and equal opportunity, think of the closet reformers in the Vatican.

You have it so much easier.

Emil Guillermo has been providing commentary on Asian-American and other minority issues since 1994. Read his other columns at www.amok.com and follow him on Twitter, @emilamok.