Sequestration is here. It is a reality. Instead of worrying about the effects of sequestration, people are turning their thoughts to worrying about how quickly the cuts will hit home. There is still hope that Congress could take action to help alleviate the damage. That will probably happen once the blame game stops and the consensus is that it is time to step up and be a hero. Until then, it is important to take a look at where the country stands right now.
Now that sequestration is a reality, what happens next? The impact is felt almost immediately and, surprise, education takes one of the first hits as the Treasury Department will shut down computers that process payments for clean energy bonds and school construction causing delays in these payments. Furlough notices will start going out to some federal employees. HUD will notify the states of the cuts, and assistance programs such as rent assistance and food stamps will see immediate cuts. This all happens this weekend.
Beginning on Monday, March 4, federal agencies will begin negotiating furloughs with the unions while WIC is cut by around 300,000 covered participants who are expected to mostly be either homeless or non-breastfeeding women. Delays to fishing seasons in federal waters go into place. Also, by the end of March, according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a speech on Thursday, schools will begin layoffs and after school programs as well as initiate measures to save money to next school year such as cutting classroom days.
People will probably begin to notice the effects of sequestration in early April when there are flight cancellations and even airport shutdowns. This will coincide with the first furloughs of federal employees and cuts to unemployment checks.
With sequestration a reality, President Obama has been quick to say that it is due to the Republicans in Congress while Republicans are quick to point out that President Obama signed the bill. At least they are both correct, or at least both half right, about the issue. Sequestration is a reality because both parties are unwilling to put the needs of their constituents over their petty bickering and political grandstanding. It is also a simple fact that both parties allowed the Budget Control Act of 2011 to pass, so they are both equally at fault as they could not reach an agreement two years ago so they decided to procrastinate and now the bill has come due. Yet even with the damage beginning, they are still unwilling to accept responsibility for their actions, and the responsibility that they were given by the electorate, to do something about it.
It is painfully obvious that a fundamental breakdown in the political system has led to this juncture but it is not obviously painful to the politicians just what their actions are causing. Instead of upholding the responsibility given to them through the election process, they are instead defending their own agendas and pocket books at the expense of the citizens that they are supposed to represent. The politicians are not the ones that are homeless and rely on programs such as WIC for survival. It is not members of Congress that are trying to raise children on a minimum wage job while finding that the government is turning its back on them in their time of need. The Senator is not the one finding the doors to the local school closed to him. It is the child that is seeking an education so that they can improve their career potential that are suffering. It is the everyday student that is paying the price for political hubris. Sequestration is essentially a punishment for those who need the government the most because the government cannot govern itself. The child of average Joe American is paying the bill, with the child of the lower income single mother left to foot an unequal share. While Congress is defending the income of the highest earning American from being lowered slightly due to increased taxes, the low income child with a learning disability is being denied the education services needed to fully unlock the potential that she holds inside. The fingers are being pointed all over the capitol yet those fingers need to be pointing into a mirror. It is the child of the service member that spent years defending his country, putting his life on the line to preserve the freedom that we all enjoy, who may be hit the hardest as military schools are the most vulnerable since their funding comes almost entirely from the federal government. That is how Congress and the President are choosing to repay those that have given their all to our country.
Politicians may hope that they can push the blame onto the opposing party and leverage that blame to future political glory, but every parent in is taking note of the selfishness and pettiness that their children must bear. One can only hope that these same parents raise their voices in unison and demand action. If Congress will not listen to parents as they pass their own failings to the children, then maybe they will learn of the power of those they are ignoring now when it comes time for them to seek election once more. It is obvious that parents must take action to protect the future for their children. It is obvious that those we have put in office are not interested in fostering that future. They are too busy arguing over the present to see the educational cliff that growing in the future. The government has officially abandoned No Child Left Behind in favor of leaving all of the nation’s children in the rear view mirror.