Sequestration's Havoc


President Obama argues against sequestration

On March 1, we’ll begin to feel the impact of sequestration – approximately $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts in fiscal year 2013 focused almost exclusively on discretionary spending.

Designed as a penalty for congressional inaction, sequestration was supposed to force legislators to work together within a deficit reduction paradigm. It failed as a disciplinary measure. Many will implicate the prevailing austerity rhetoric as part of the problem believing it unwise to cut federal investment in the midst of continued economic crisis – especially when sequestration takes meaningful tax reform off the table. Now, just days away, sequestration is on course to fail us all – especially the most vulnerable and marginalized Americans.

Sequestration slashes more or less evenly from what’s known as defense and non-defense discretionary spending. On the surface that sounds fair but consider that – at 57 percent of all discretionary spending – Pentagon-related federal expenditures have increased 35 percent since 2002, or 48 percent including war costs. At the same time, non-defense discretionary spending increased just 8 percent with notable reductions in funding for key social programs occurring between 2010 and 2013.

Sequester cuts to already depleted social initiatives will mean less money flowing into state and local budgets, job loss, and the termination of services in sectors where there are already aching gaps between what’s needed and what’s offered.

In states like Florida where there’s 8 percent unemployment or Tennessee where one in five residents live in poverty or New York where 69,566 are without homes or Washington where food insecurity affects 15 percent of families, the need won’t evaporate as funding ebbs. The costs of addressing these corrosive social inequities will simply shift to state and local governments in the form of property and sales tax hikes and budget overrides.

And if the thought of budget havoc on the back of our nation’s families isn’t enough to get you on the phone with your senators and representative, make the call today in the name of our ailing democracy. Americans deserve better than government by crisis. Through our taxes Americans are the nation’s bill payers. Sequestration robs us – and our legislators – of our right and responsibility to make nuanced, thoughtful decisions about the fate of our nation and flies in the face of popular opinion. Recent polls by the Pew Research Center surface that most Americans are unwilling to endure further cuts and 76 percent favor a combination of spending cuts and tax increases as the best way to tackle deficits.

This is the moment for all Americans to demand a federal budget by the people for our nation.