Six weeks ago, I tried to make sense of the “fiscal cliff” buzz phrase making the rounds of all the media outlets via print and those talking heads on television. Well, apparently our government’s high-dollar, money guzzling stretch limousine did not drive off the cliff in January as was threatened.



Now, we keep hearing the terms “sequestration” and “sequester” in reference to the present economic crisis.



I thought it had something to do with trial juries and hotel rooms. Or maybe hiding out in your bedroom with a good novel and a glass of wine while the spouse takes care of the kids.



But, here’s the political definition:



Originally, “sequestration” was legal speak for the act of valuable property being taken into custody by an agent of the court and locked away for safekeeping, usually to prevent said property from being disposed of before a dispute over its ownership can be resolved.



In recent years, Congress has employed the term to describe a fiscal policy allowing them to make the size of the federal government's budget deficit a matter of conscious choice instead of an arithmetical reality of an appropriations process previously ignored until it’s too late to do anything about it.



If Congressional appropriation bills add up to spending above previous limits set by the annual budget resolution, and/or Congress cannot agree on ways to cut back the excessive spending, then an "automatic" cutback — or “sequestration” — takes place.



Under sequestration, an amount of money equal to the difference between the cap set in the budget resolution and the amount actually appropriated is "sequestered" by the Treasury and denied to various agencies funded by Congress.



Currently, unless a last-minute resolution is reached, the government will initiate phase one of deep spending cuts, amounting to $85 billion in 2013.



According to Jill Schlesinger’s Money Watch report of Feb. 24, 2013, these spending cuts will slow economic growth by 0.5 percent and cause job losses of 750,000. Although sequestration will “not likely derail the economy” into recession, real people with real lives will suffer either directly or indirectly, even if it’s only trying to get through the airport chaos and long waits due to downsizing the TSA, for example.



In 2011, “fiscal cliff” and “sequester” were banded about as scare tactics to force both sides to come to the table. Unfortunately, none of our 535 members of Congress became frightened enough to take responsible fiscal action. Their stupid, wasteful spending has now led to cuts in needed programs and services. My favorite 2012 example was the funded study of pig poop.



The Environmental Protection Agency awarded a $141,450 grant under the Clean Air Act to fund a Chinese study on swine manure.That amount may be taxpayer chump change, but it all adds up when there are hundreds of such dim-witted appropriations.



Admittedly, I’m neither an economist nor a political scientist, but I like to think I have a little common sense when it comes to budgeting my hard-earned pension. Basically, if I don’t need it and can’t afford it anyway, I keep my wallet zipped.



My simple-minded explanation on politics and economics is exemplified by the popular “two cows” parable:



Under Socialism, a man has two cows. The government takes one and gives it to his neighbor who doesn’t have one.



Under Communism, a man has two cows. The government seizes both and gives him a cup of milk a day.



Under a liberal government, a man has two cows. And he is encouraged to feel guilty about it. So, he votes for politicians who tax his cows, forcing him to sell one to pay the taxes.



The people he voted into office then take his tax money and buy a cow to give to his cow-less neighbor. Now, his social conscience is clear.



Under a now-extinct governmental system where hard work, personal responsibility, and creativity once prospered, a man has two cows. He sells one, buys a bull, and produces a herd of cattle. As a result, several cowboys are hired. Meat, milk, and leather goods are produced, and the economy is stimulated naturally. And, oh yeah, he enjoys pride in the American work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit.



My worst subject in college was economics, so take my opinion for what it may be worth.



But, I’m thinking, I can’t be any dumber than whoever thought up spending money on pig poop.



Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.