Congress’ inability to do the work they were elected to do has now led to the largest self inflicted hit on the US economy and financial stability of millions of Americans in our collective history. The idea of a sequestration of the federal budget that was originally enacted by Congress as a mechanism to force action on the budget has now turned into a program slicing, services hacking, national security cutting, and policy slashing disaster. It was supposed to be such a hardship to the American public that it would never go through to fruition. Surprise! There is no depth to which Republicans won’t sink, and allowing the reality of the sequestration of the federal government’s budget proves it. They blame Obama for the fire, all while still holding the matches that caused the fire.
After several battles on the debt ceiling (which historically had never been grounds for partisan politics in passing the increases) Obama signed the mandatory spending cuts into law as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011. It required cuts in all programs based on a percentage, with no regard for the program being cut if budget compromises by Congress were not reached. Republicans are quick to point out now that they have opted for inaction, that the idea was Obama’s. But Congress had to vote on it, and did, so the blame placing for that one is already out of line by the GOP. When they failed to act on it by the end of February, the implementation was automatic. The part that stuns me is how Republicans, the anti-people party, is controlling the dialogue and discussion of this by claiming Obama and other Democrats wanted this to happen.
Democrats fight for the rights of people. They fight to alleviate suffering. To claim Democrats and their elected leader, Barack Obama, wanted these disastrous cuts to occur is just ridiculous. When Congress did not act to prevent the sequestration from becoming reality, Obama had no choice but to sign the order.
Here is a copy of the order signed by President Obama on March 1, 2013 in response to a lack of action by Congress:
SEQUESTRATION ORDER FOR FISCAL YEAR 2013 PURSUANT
TO SECTION 251A OF THE BALANCED BUDGET AND
EMERGENCY DEFICIT CONTROL ACT, AS AMENDED
By the authority vested in me as President by the laws of the United States of America, and in accordance with section 251A of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, as amended (the “Act”), 2 U.S.C. 901a, I hereby order that budgetary resources in each non-exempt budget account be reduced by the amount calculated by the Office of Management and Budget in its report to the Congress of March 1, 2013.
Pursuant to sections 250(c)(6), 251A, and 255(e) of the Act, budgetary resources subject to sequestration shall be new budget authority, unobligated balances of defense function accounts carried over from prior fiscal years, direct spending authority, and obligation limitations.
All sequestrations shall be made in strict accordance with the requirements of section 251A of the Act and the specifications of the Office of Management and Budget’s report of March 1, 2013, prepared pursuant to section 251A(11) of the Act.
THE WHITE HOUSE,
March 1, 2013.
The intent of the sequestration was that cuts would be so dramatic and deep that Congress would work to come to consensus about what to do to make the budget work. Billions had already been taken in program cuts prior to this action, and while Republicans argue they agreed to revenue increases after the start of the new Congressional session and would not agree to more, the cuts currently outweigh the tax increases. This means these cuts are being unleashed on the poorest of the poor to endure, while the richest of the rich continue their prosperity. There is not a thing about these cuts that advance the needs of this nation…not a single one. Even the cuts to the military which is admittedly bloated and over funded is going to take away jobs.
An article on Alternet by Igor Volsky highlights the significant cuts to come:
$20 million cut from the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs
$10 million cut from the World Trade Center Health Program Fund
$168 million cut from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
$75 million cut from the Aging and Disability Services Programs
$199 million cut from public housing
$96 million cut from Homeless Assistance Grants
$17 million cut from Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS
$19 million cut from Housing for the Elderly
$175 million cut from Low Income Home Energy Assistance
Disaster and Emergency
$928 million cut from FEMA’s disaster relief money
$6 million cut from Emergency Food and Shelter
$70 million cut from the Agricultural Disaster Relief Fund at USDA
$61 million cut from the Hazardous Substance Superfund at EPA
$125 million cut from the Wildland Fire Management
$53 million cut from Salaries and Expenses at the Food Safety and Inspection Service
$13 million cut from the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan Program (Co-ops)
$57 million cut from the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control
$51 million cut from the Prevention and Public Health Fund
$27 million cut from the State Grants and Demonstrations
$44 million cut from the Affordable Insurance Exchange Grants program
$633 million cut from the Department of Education’s Special Education programs
$184 million cut from Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research
$71 million cut from administration at the Office of Federal Student Aid
$116 million cut from Higher Education
$86 million cut from Student Financial Assistance
$512 million cut from Customs and Border Protection
$17 million cut from Automation Modernization, Customs and Border Protection
$20 million cut from Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology
$79 million cut from Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance
$604 million cut from National Nuclear Security Administration
$232 million cut from the Federal Aviation Administration
$394 million cut from Defense Environmental Cleanup
These program cuts are not inconsequential. They are at the heart of what we do for our citizens as the greatest nation on earth. We are cutting education, healthcare, national security, and disaster funding as though those funding streams mean nothing. We are turning our backs on those who have committed to a life of public service in teaching, or security, or emergency relief, and telling them their sacrifices are less important than having those who benefit the most from those services paying for the privilege of having those services. It is unimaginable to me how someone rationalizes that putting more people out of work, and people who make a difference in our communities, no less, is a more palatable option than making those who have it all give back in order to sustain the American way of life.
If you don’t think this is about money and allowing those who have it to keep it, then you’re either very naïve or not paying attention. A video showing the wealth inequity in this country and how that’s happened will enlighten you. And it should make you angry.
If the wealthy had suffered the same levels of financial devastation that the impoverished had experienced I think we all would be in agreement that asking more from them would not be a prudent course of action. That isn’t the case, however, and it should be time for them to step up to help this country that has made their wealth possible. If you’re reading this without having watched the video you may not understand. Watch the video. It will be abundantly clear that what we have been doing does not work, and if we want the eventual fall of our economy and financial control to be in the hands of the few with no opportunities for advancement for anyone else, then we should continue on this path.
You may think the topic of the sequestration has been lost in the face of discussion about the wealth inequities. But they are inextricably tangled together. There wouldn’t be one without the other. We need to come to grips in this country about what we value. If we value things, and people who have it all, then we are doing what we need to do to ensure that continues. If, however, we value people, then it’s time to quit talking about it and time to start changing it. When people have no hope and no future, there is no impetus to try harder. There has to be the promise of something better for those who work hard and play by the rules. That’s what this country represents. It’s what it used to represent, anyway.
We’re watching dysfunction at a whole new level in current American politics. A willingness by Republicans in Congress to allow the greatest economy in the world to flounder is the height of arrogance, and the world is watching, knowing they will be impacted as well. It’s a sad commentary on what’s passing for public service these days, and we’re all fed up with the drama.