Culture Fail: The Sequester: All Pain, No Gain

While representatives of the two parties in the Congress bicker about who’s to blame for the sequester, its effects will begin to roll out over the next thirty days—and these effects will not be negligible.

Congress’s inability to avoid the sequester, as was the original intent, has, and will continue to lead to the end of automatic overtime for federal law enforcement, cuts to immigration enforcement, cuts in education and research spending, cuts to the USDA (putting the US beef supply at risk because of a lack of inspectors), cuts to research institutions like our own Oregon State University, cuts to student services funding for community colleges, and much more.

The kicker is that these cuts will not meaningfully lower the deficit, not by more than 0.5%, and yet they will cost research institutions like OSU around $10 million and Community Colleges like LBCC, $400,000. For a deficit plan that doesn’t actually reduce the deficit, these are major cuts to vital institutions that serve their communities by providing the next generation with the tools they need to succeed.

It’s one thing to support lowering the deficit, even reducing government spending on social safety nets or raising taxes, but it makes no sense to cut research grants and higher education in a jobless recovery—these are often the institutions that provide foundations for individuals and groups to grow new businesses.

Because the sequestration cuts only affect the discretionary budget, they aren’t apocalyptic nor are they useful at reducing the deficit. They completely ignore the ballooning, mandatory spending, of the Pentagon, Medicare, and Medicaid; in short the sequester ignores the 60% of the budget that is growing like a cancer.

Which is what makes these Washington shenanigans all the more ridiculous; these cuts are being implemented for purely political reasons. Actors on both sides of the aisle are playing a demented version of “chicken,” waiting to see who will compromise first. Cutting the deficit and controlling government spending is a necessary thing, but doing that on the back of middle class America, in the middle of a jobless recovery, is inexcusable.

Congress might still find a legislative compromise to avoid this latest fiscal crisis, but this is no way to run a government—from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis. Citizens should know that their representatives were more willing to make cuts to teacher, firefighter, and police pay, rather than to corporate subsidies which amount to over 100 billion, budget programs like the f-35 joint strike fighter, a 2 billion dollar jet that can’t fly in the rain, or even to reign in the pentagon’s stealth program, which approaches 300 billion and wasn’t subject to the sequester because it is considered “mandatory.” These cuts in essence are all pain, for those affected, with no meaningful gain for the nation as a whole. The sequestration is emblematic of how this nation’s leaders in Congress and at the White-house have failed to lead and failed to serve the people.

by William Tatum

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