Millions of Americans are suffering from the sequestration budget cuts. The adverse impacts of the automatic across-the-board budget cuts that began on March 1 are hurting most of our country’s people and are affecting practically all sectors of our economy.
Each week brings new reports of how these continuing cuts in funds for domestic and defense “discretionary” programs are harming Americans’ health, safety, education, housing, justice, etc. Here are just a few of the serious harmful effects of sequestration:
Education: The first schools to feel the effects were those on or near military bases and Native American reservations that receive Impact Aid to make up for lower tax revenues. The Title I program was cut by $725 million nationally and special education state grants by $600 million. From the replies of 541 superintendents in 48 states, AASA School Superintendents’ Association reported: “The cuts of sequestration will translate into reductions in and eliminations to personnel, curriculum, facilities and operations. Cuts would mean reducing professional development, eliminating personnel, increasing class size, and deferring technology purchases.”
Military medical care: Cutbacks are "definitely impacting our ability to deliver health care," said Maj. Gen. Richard Thomas, commander of 11 Army hospitals in the western United States. Military families wait longer for medical appointments, immunizations for infants and other essential services.
Food safety: In order not to impair food safety in the near term, FDA is scaling back training and travel but not facility inspections, but may not have the resources needed to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act
Public defenders: Sequestration is taking a heavy toll on legal representation for the poor, causing delays and lengthy furloughs that could worsen next year. Judiciary Committee, a group of 40 former judges and prosecutors, wrote: “These ill-conceived measures undermine not only the Federal Defender system, but the entire Federal judiciary, without achieving any real cost savings.”
Head start: must eliminate education, nutrition, and health services for more than 57,000 children aged 5 and under, make pay cuts or layoffs for at least 18,000 employees, and plan for 1.3 million fewer days of service, according to the DHHS.
Low-income housing: More than 2,000 Vermonters in 774 households may lose their homes in the next few months as a result of funding reductions for low-income housing. Housing needs in other states will similarly go unmet.
Forest service firefighters: The automatic budget cuts forced the Forest Service to hire 500 fewer firefighters this year, according to Bill Dougan, president, National Federation of Federal Employees. The agency is down at least 50 fire engines and two planes used to drop fire retardant, he said.
Government travel: Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has reduced travel for its 15,000 employees, and state and local officials are now being trained online for crisis and emergency communications, said spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds.
Medical Research for Alzheimer’s and other diseases: Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, of NIH said, “The cuts have affected Alzheimer’s research as they have all NIH research. The sequestration requires NIH to cut 5%, or $1.55 billion …cut evenly across all programs, projects and activities….Many outstanding proposals won’t be funded, and that will slow the pace at which we can translate findings into an intervention.”
Some reprieves from sequestration have been approved. The most notable was the quickly passed and signed law that reversed the air traffic controllers' furloughs brought on by sequestration. Women Infants and Children (WIC) got a reprieve by the April 2013 Continuing Appropriations Act, yet had a total of $510 million in cuts. Many agencies, for now, have postponed or shortened employee furloughs. These would go into effect next if the sequesters continue.
While all Americans are affected to some degree, the adverse impacts caused by reduction of support, disruption of services, loss of funds fall disproportionately on those least capable of protecting themselves from the budgets cuts and for whom the impacts will have long term effects. Children, elderly, pregnant women, unemployed, poor families, sick, including cancer patients, are suffering directly and from reduced support by the agencies that serve them. In addition, those who serve us and sacrifice so much in the military and their families must now bear an additional, unfair burden.
Congress and President Obama disagree about the origins of the sequester idea. But the fact remains, sequestration is the result of legislation approved by the House and Senate, and signed into law by the President on August 2, 2011. All political leaders thought the law would never be implemented because of its predictable horrific consequences. The purpose was to prod Congress and the Administration into agreeing on budget matters. Paul Krugman said, “This was designed to be stupid.” “The whole point was, this was supposed to be a doomsday device that would force the [Democratic and Republican] parties to reach an agreement. Of course, they didn’t, and here it goes.” And now the pain and suffering continue and will grow ominously unless sequestration ends.
Yet, some Republicans ignore this pain and suffering, and claim that sequestration is good for the economy because it is cutting federal expenses. These radical conservatives want to continue the automatic spending cuts in order to trade ending sequestration for major cuts in entitlement programs and defunding of Obama Care!
Americans for Democratic Action calls upon the Senate, the House, and President Obama to end sequestration and its resultant pain and suffering. As soon as Congress reconvenes next week, Congressional leaders and the President should:
Congress and President Obama must ensure that our Nation will not be held hostage by extremists who would endanger the health, safety, and well-being of people, and threaten the full faith and credit of the United States. Failure by our national leaders to take these actions will lead to more suffering by additional millions--especially children, elderly and the poor–enormous national economic disasters, and failed businesses. Those who fail to take actions to end sequestration will be remembered among our country’s most immoral, irresponsible, and worst elected officials in America’s history.