With sequester cuts looming, what would George Washington do?
With Washington counting down to the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts on March 1, what can the current Congress and president learn from our nation's first?
Visitors to George Washington's Mount Vernon estate - celebrating his 281st birthday - think they know what Washington would do.
"If I had to get into his head, I would think that he would allow the cuts to proceed because we are in so much debt," Mount Vernon tourist Diane McMillan said.
Visitor John Denkler added, "I'm sure he would follow reasonableness. I mean, intuitively you would have to say it's something to be avoided because it only means austerity."
Washington's 1798 farewell address might hold some clues. In it, he calls for a balanced federal budget. But Washington also says, "towards the payments of debts there must be Revenue, that to have Revenue there must be taxes."
George Washington impersonator Dean Malissa said, "Congress needs to remember the motto at the founding of the country, which is E Pluribus Unum...out of many, one."
Malissa has studied Washington for many years and points out the founding father was never fond of the political party system, which, according to his farewell address, creates "ill-founded jealousies... and animosity of one... against another."
"The problem is as I have writ that political parties, while they may have use from time to time, tend to raise the interests of the few over the interests of the common welfare," Malissa added.
At his tomb, a wreath-laying ceremony marked Washington's birthday. Visitors reflected on his legacy - one modern politicians might reflect on themselves.
Visitor Thomas Walker added, "Even the Constitution itself is a product of compromise, and I think he would encourage us in that way."
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