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The sequester is set to go into effect on Friday, unless Congress acts now. Presuming Republicans and Democrats remain deadlocked, actual consequences of the sequester will begin on March 27. According to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, a majority of Americans are opposed to the sequester, but are unsure how Congress should solve the problem. President Obama is scheduled to meet with Congressional leaders on Friday at the White House to discuss a potential compromise.

If Congress doesn’t act, massive irresponsible cuts will be implemented, affecting millions of Americans and reversing years of progress. These are five of the many consequences Americans will face if Congress doesn’t reach a deal by Friday.

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

Cuts To Educational Programs Across The Country

Programs currently in place that help thousands of children across the country would be cut by millions of dollars. Two programs that assist children of low-income families — Head Start and Title I Funding —  would see enormous cuts  upwards of $400 million and $725 million respectively that would reduce the availability of these valuable services.  Schools across the nation would have to furlough thousands of teachers and service providers.

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Reduced Veteran Services

The Transition Assistance Program, National Veterans’ Training Institute and Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program would all be forced to cut back their services, which help some 150,000 veterans every year. These programs are aimed at assisting veterans when they return home after serving our country abroad—by providing rehabilitation services and aiding them in the civilian job search process.

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Longer Waits At Airports

As if traveling isn’t stressful enough, prepare to wait in longer security lines. The Federal Aviation Administration would be forced to make $600 million in cuts, resulting in reduced hours for 47,000 employees. Changes to TSA agents and air traffic controllers not only pose an inconvenience to travelers, but raise serious safety concerns. Emergency responders would also be affected by sequestration—fewer firefighters, as well as a reduction in necessary equipment that keep families and communities safe.

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Food Safety Risks

Not only would food programs for the elderly and nutrition programs for women and children be cut, but the number of food safety inspectors would be reduced.  In effect, this could close meat and poultry plants if there aren’t enough USDA personnel available to conduct necessary inspections. Not having assistance programs in place or enough inspectors available puts the health and well-being of all Americans at serious risk.

Photo: “roboppy” via Flickr.com

Cuts To Armed Forces

The Department of Defense could face around $492 billion in cuts over the next 10 years. According to former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the Armed Service Committee reports that “sequestration would undermine our ability to meet our national security objectives, generate significant operational risks and delay response time to crises, conflicts, and disasters, severely limit our ability to be forward deployed, and severely reduce force training and threaten overall operational readiness.” While we are still embedded in Afghanistan, keeping close tabs on North Korea, Iran, and Syria, and still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, congressional leaders ought to keep in mind that cutting our Armed Forces would be massively detrimental to our national security.

Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Chris A. Durney, via Army.mil

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