Art first, most of the coverage of the sequester cuts has focused on White House tours and the Easter Egg Roll. Recently, news that air traffic control towers would be shuttered got people a little worried. But even the president has moved on from arguing against the cuts, which were included in the continuing resolution he signed in March.
Tuesday the Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel surveyed 100 separate instances of the sequester’s automatic cuts having an effect on the local level:
Organizations and companies have begun laying off workers, while many more have decided not to staff vacant positions. Schools on military bases are contemplating four-day weekly schedules. Food pantries have closed, as have centers that provide health services. Farmers have been forced to go without milk production information, causing alarm in the dairy industry and the potential of higher milk prices. Workers at missile-testing fields are facing job losses. Federal courts have closed on Fridays. Public Broadcasting transmitters have been shut down. Even luxury cruises are feeling the pinch, with passengers forced to wait hours before debarking because of delays at Customs and Immigration. Yes, sequestration is creating the possibility of another poop cruise.
But the “evil genius” of the sequester is that the sum total of these cuts will never grab the nation’s attention the same way as the possibility of the stock market crashing because the debt limit is nearing, or Social Security checks being delayed.
We all know the real reason the sequester isn’t being covered by the media. The people it hurts most are society’s most vulnerable — the poor, soldiers, seniors and workers. And it hurts them in a slow-motion way that doesn’t make great headlines.
Still the impact of this haphazard austerity is now starting to take its toll.Here are five examples of how the sequester is hurting America.
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Layoffs At The ‘Most Polluted’ Nuclear Weapons Site
Employees who work at cleaning up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation received bad news in late March. A total of 244 Hanford workers received pink slips and another 2,000-plus received furlough notices, meaning they can expect significant cuts in pay. As if working at the nation’s “most polluted nuclear weapons production site” wasn’t tough enough already.
Photo: UmptanumRedux via Wikimedia Commons
Cutbacks To Flood Prevention
Here’s a sequester cut that’s sure to get the attention of prospective 2016 candidates for president: because it’s in Iowa.
Five years after record floods devastated Cedar Rapids, funding for flood-prevention plans on the east side of the Cedar River are facing a cloudy future as a result of congressional cuts to the federal budget.
The sequester’s 0.4 percent reduction in Iowa’s budget will also affect the readiness of the National Guard, who are among the first to mobilize in the case of a natural disaster.
Photos: U.S. Geological Survey via Flickr.com
Canceled Drug Trafficking Investigations
Non-defense discretionary spending is already lower, as a share of GDP, than at any time since 1962. This means the federal government’s ability to provide funding for local law enforcement has all but evaporated. The sequester is making this difficult situation worse:
State and local drug enforcement partnerships, heavily reliant on federal grants that have been shrinking for years, were teetering on the brink of extinction even before the recent round of automatic spending cuts known as the sequester. Now the latest cuts are threatening to push them over the cliff.
A prime example is the Ocmulgee drug task force based here in this small town of about 17,000. Supported by the Byrne justice assistance grant program, the regional task force budget makes up just one-ten-thousandth of the $448 million that was distributed to all 50 states through the program last year. But the task force is the only law enforcement entity that investigates drug trafficking in the three counties it serves, which are about 90 miles southeast of Atlanta.
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Rural Hospitals Possibly Forced To Close
With the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act rolling out combined with the flood of Baby Boomers retiring, the sequester couldn’t have come at a worse time for hospitals. The sequester cuts Medicare reimbursement rates by two percent but it doesn’t cut the number of patients on the rolls.
“Rural hospitals typically see older patients, patients without insurance,” Steven Summer, president and CEO of the Colorado Hospital Association, told The Colorado Springs Business Journal. “They’ll be the ones faced with closing down. Bigger, metropolitan systems have a more diverse payer mix, so they’ll be able to weather this better.”
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The Poor Suffer Most
The canceling of air shows stings and the furloughs burn, but it’s the cuts to the poorest that make the sequester so cruel, as poverty is at its highest rate since the the mid 1960s. Cuts to Head Start not only affect children and parents, they cripple the charities that often administer it.
The Associated Press took a look at how the cuts will effect Baltimore in particular and found immediate effects: “Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano said his agency faces a $25 million shortfall in funds to help poor people with housing. There are 35,000 people on the waiting list.”
Countless housing authorities, soup kitchens and job training programs that have been serving those most impacted by the financial crisis are now desperately seeking to fill the hole in their budgets left by the sequester.
Meanwhile, tax breaks for private jets, big oil and hedge fund managers are all safely accounted for.
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