The package of budget cuts known as sequestration or “the sequester” may have been forgotten by most people, or worse, turned into a punchline but that is a mistake. For people living on the margins, a new round of cuts that will come into effect next month may mean all of the difference.
Popular talking points among the right are that federal programs are laden with “pork” and waste and “if I have to live within a budget, so should the government.” As much of a fallacy as that statement is (few people I know are debt free). When the Budget Control Act of 2011 was passed and signed, the cuts were meant to be so onerous that no one in their right mind would fail to prevent their implementation but our elected representatives (and president) have managed it. I just love that they passed a bill “no budget, no pay” that required both sides of the Hill pass a budget by April 15. Maybe we need to send them all copies of the Schoolhouse Rock “I’m just a bill.” Passing a version of a budget through the Senate and House means little until it reaches the White House for signature.
Here are some of the “fat cats” who will be hurt by the sequester:
1. Poor hungry older Americans: Meals on Wheels programs around the country, already on the ropes, may not survive the next round of cuts. According to the Washington Post, there are nearly 4.8 million people in the US who are above 60 and lack access to regular food. “We’re just going to have to close,’’ said Deanna Lesche (Hyattsville, Maryland), the treasurer for the church’s Meals on Wheels program. Its program used to receive $1,200 each quarter; it will now receive only $1,100 all year. That’s not even enough to pay the cook.”
2. People whose homes are on fire: With drought conditions continuing throughout much of the west and a forest fire season just starting now (it goes from June though September, you can read about the outlook for this season here), this may not be the best time to furlough firefighters but we are about to do just that. California, no stranger to fires, relies on the National Guard and on July 8th, 20 percent of their ranks will be furloughed (read about that here). I love that the fact sheet mentions “telework” and that may be a good option for some workers but not the ones fighting fires. For those in states that do not rely on the Guard, the Forest Service will lose about 500 firefighters.
3. Anyone who relies on accurate weather forecasting: People in the Oklahoma City area were given nearly 16 minutes warning before the colossal tornado that killed and wounded so many people. That lead time saved lives. The National Atmospheric and Ocean Administration (NOAA) will be impacted and the cuts will hurt their forecasts’ accuracy. Today is the start of hurricane season, too. Read their official response to the sequester, here.
4. Young children: Head Start, and nothing I have ever read about this program has called it anything but effective, it’s slated to be cut. It serves about one million kids, as many as 70,000 will be dropped.
This list is just a starting off point, not an all inclusive list. The sequester got attention when it was signed into law and then when it went info effect but other than the people directly impacted, it doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. It is easy to dismiss my opinion, as a progressive and DC resident who has friends who have been directly impacted but it will be felt far outside of the beltway. When the gigantic tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma, people seemed shocked that not all the area schools had shelters. These things cost money, something we expect anything or anyone that relies on the federal government to do without, or with less.
If I had a voting representative in Congress, I woud call them and demand they do their job,