As of midnight, two points became more or less salient; sequestration is here, and Americans seem to be expendable pawns in the game of politics between the Republicans and Democrats in Washington. Hardly any surprise if you haven’t been in a come for the last 20 years or so.
Because of the legislative impasse between the White House and the both parties in Congress, the much-vilified automatic across-the-board spending cuts—compiled back in 2011 as a means of motivating each party to address the federal deficit—became a reality after President Obama signed the order triggering the cuts to every federal government agencies.
To the lawmakers involved, the effects of the cuts probably seem abstract, especially since the paychecks, the government-sponsored healthcare, and retirement packages of these lawmakers enjoy won’t be affected. However, for those less secure in their well-being, the effects of the sequestration are very real. One prime example is the unemployed. In an estimated 2-3 weeks, unemployment payouts will be cut by about 10% for those receiving them. In many cases, such an amount can make the difference between a utility payment and a shut-off notice.
In many other places, the sharp budget cuts have the potential to touch us all in some way. Other programs facing the budget knife due to lawmakers’ inability to strike a budget compromise are:
$633 million cut from the Department of Education’s Special Education programs
$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
$79 million cut from Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance
$604 million cut from National Nuclear Security Administration
$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
$53 million cut from Salaries and Expenses at the Food Safety and Inspection Service
$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
$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
And given the recent attention given to certain issues tied to these cuts (the cuts to embassy security & construction being the most obvious in light of the Benghazi affair), one has to wonder whether any political issue is of genuine concern to Congressional lawmakers outside of the political value they might gain from invoking and using them against their across-the-aisle archrivals.
So why did it come to this? The usual cross-finger pointing by both parties.
The White House places the blame for the impasse and budget cuts on Congressional Republicans. According to President Obama, "They've [the Republicans] allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful loophole to help reduce the deficit." The Republicans’ stance was summed up in the words of House of Representatives speaker John Boehner. Boehner chided that, “the president got his tax hikes on Jan. 1” ("Obama Signs Order to Begin Spending Cuts").
Needless to say, the American people are already placing blame on one party or the other, the President and/or Congress. This reveals the political schizophrenia that plagues the minds and hearts of the American people. We complain about federal spending, but now that the cuts starting, some of us are already crying “foul.” We want our cuts, but apparently only insofar as they affect other people…not the particular program that benefits us. We want our elected representatives to represent the ideas that we hold dear, but whine when our legislators cannot reach a compromise. Apparently our individual idea of “compromise” is when the other guy caves in to our point of views.
We cannot have it both ways. Either we allow our elected officials to address the issue of government spending, or we sit back and enjoy the fruits of the spending. If we actually want to curtail government spending, then every program must be on the chopping block…the programs we like individually as well as the programs the other guys like. And yes, all of us must be willing to pay!
Be careful what you ask for...