Did the United States of America end as we know it on Mar. 1? Since the sequestration debacle happened, that is precisely what the president predicted. As a grandmother, as a woman in ministry and a concerned citizen, I have watched read and listened to the myriad stories and opinions that have glared and blared over the airwaves and in the print media in recent months. The volume and intensity has been turned up in the last week or so as we got closer to the big day. The Wall Street Journal caught my attention with these headlines: “Fresh Tack in Budget Battle,” “Parties Trade Blame over Looming Budget Cuts,” and “Sequester’s Fallout is Hard to Pinpoint.” Really. We have never been here before.

I have three questions for the president and members of Congress: Since sequestration has happened, are we really doomed, or were the images Mr. Obama portrayed merely showmanship and scare tactics to make the Republicans look bad? Who exactly is responsible for not taking responsibility for the stewardship of America’s future? Where is the serious leadership in our country to make the decisions to stop spending money and reduce the debt that will be passed on to our children and grandchildren?

I do not have the answers, but I do have some thoughts and I have some suggestions. Sequestration, after all, was Mr. Obama’s idea in 2011 when no one could seem to find a place to reduce spending. He requested sequestration and Congress agreed and passed a law stating that if the $4 billion reduction was not made, sequestration would happen. Both sides of the issue apparently expected cuts to be made. It did not happen. Not one member of Congress could agree with another to find a place to save money! Shame on them for not being responsible long before now! The result was that on Friday, Mar. 1, there were mandatory 10 percent cuts to spending in specific departments in the government, including the Defense Department.

None of this was necessary, and I see the cause as being twofold. The first stems from a lack of leadership on the president’s part. In my experience over the years and in other administrations, when there was a serious problem like this one needing to be resolved or a crisis to be handled, the presidents stayed in Washington and held meetings and talked to the parties involved. They seemed to do everything in their power to negotiate to find answers by working together. The last two weeks Mr. Obama has traveled around the country making speeches, seemingly campaigning instead of being focused on finding a solution to the budget issue. Yes, I know it takes two sides to come to an agreement, but he wasn’t in Washington long enough to sit down with members of Congress. They asked him to do so, several times, according to radio and television news stories. In addition, when Speaker of the House John Boehner and other leaders have met with the president in the past, they have found him to be less than willing to compromise. That attitude does not show leadership qualities.

The second cause for this mess is that many people in Congress, both the House of Representatives and the Senate, don’t seem to understand or don’t care about the repercussions for future generations of Americans. All they seem to care about is their power now and getting reelected. They seem to forget that they are working for us, the regular folks. They are supposed to represent us and make laws and decisions that will protect and defend “we, the people.” I think they forget that the money they appropriate and continue to spend is not their money. It is our money; money that we have worked very hard for. People go to work every day, sometimes to two or three jobs to make ends meet to earn enough money for necessities and, if possible, to try to save.

Most Americans have cut back on personal spending by eating out less, or cutting out extraneous trips to save a few extra gallons of gas. Fewer vacations are taken away from home; we buy used cars; people shop for clothes at Goodwill and the Salvation Army stores. We know how to save money, we know how to balance a budget; cities, towns and state governments do it all the time. (Thank you very much, Gov. LePage and our Maine state Legislature!) It is not easy, but it is necessary and it is part of being responsible citizens; stewards, if you will, for the coming generations.

I have some simple suggestion on how the United States government can save money. First off, every department, starting with Defense, should be audited for waste, fraud and abuse of our money. We should put a freeze on government hiring until the financial situation is such that we can afford to hire people. Mr. Obama talks about layoffs of government workers and first responders. That is not necessary; don’t be hiring any new employees if you think you may have to furlough the ones you already have. Another immediate savings would be found if the White House and members of Congress stopped traveling so much.

According to USAToday.com and a Congressional Service Report, each time Air Force One flies, it costs the Air Force $179,750 per hour to operate. That doesn’t include food or lodging expenses. The taxpayers pay for all official government business trips (vacations included), and the president’s campaign organization reimburses the government for portions of the trip that are considered “campaign events.” I don’t begrudge the president vacation time; I’m just saying I don’t think it is necessary for him, or any other president, congressman or senator, to pursue extraneous and extravagant practices when the rest of the country is barely getting by in order to pay the taxes that pay for these trips.

We are over $16 trillion in debt as a country. If we as citizens do not hold our elected officials accountable for reducing the debt, we are as much to blame as they. Cutting 10 percent across the board is a good start; it’s also pretty clever showmanship on the part of the media and the president. If President Obama really wanted sequestration to be averted, he would sit down with members of Congress and make it happen. If Congress really wanted to decrease spending, they could have found ways to cut budgets months ago and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

I ask that you pray for our leaders and for our country that decisions will be made for a more secure financial future for our children. Leaving them trillions of dollars in debt is not a legacy any of them deserves.

Linda Hoeschle is a resident of Searsport; a retired RN and presently a third-year seminary student at Andover Newton Theological School in Boston. She is currently serving Williston-Immanuel United Church in Portland as student minister.