America woke up Monday morning to discover the sequester suddenly back in the headlines.
Flight delays are expected around the country because FAA furloughs have finally begun to hit our work week.
Of course, the actual impact of the sequester has been slowly seeping across the economy since it first went into effect on March 1. A disappointing jobs report was just the beginning. Thousands of cancer patients on Medicare are being turned away from clinics. Veterans desperately in need of opportunities are seeing programs they need being cut. Poor families are being denied public housing.
And these are just a few ways America’s most vulnerable citizens are being hurt by the automatic budget cuts the president used to get Republicans to end the debt crisis of 2011.
But these slow-motion tragedies rarely make headlines. Why?
The AFL-CIO’s Jeff Hauser has a theory:
1 sign of inequality in USA is that of the many ways the #sequester is messing up people’s lives, business travelers air delays count most.
— Jeff Hauser (@jeffhauser) April 22, 2013
Suddenly, as America’s white-collar workers are affected, the media may begin to take notice that there is real damage being done by the sequester. Even if they didn’t notice that the prime academic study that justified budget cuts in the middle of a jobs crisis has been shown to be fundamentally flawed. And you didn’t need a study to show that: The reality in Europe is making austerity’s failure clear.
Republicans made a political decision to accept the pain of the sequester after they were slammed by their base for letting tax breaks on the rich end during the fiscal cliff debate. They cast the sequester as the president’s idea, though a huge majority of their caucus voted for it, and agreed to temporarily extend the debt limit until spring if the Senate would pass a budget.
This plan backfired and now the House GOP is unwilling to engage in typical budget negotiations.
The president forecasted the pain of the sequester and was attacked by the right when the pain wasn’t immediately evident. His budget replaced the immediate sequester cuts in exchange for long-term cuts in the growth of programs like Social Security. This earned him attacks from his own party, something the president was obviously willing to endure in order to cast himself as a reasonable negotiator.
Why did he go to such an extreme to make this point? Because Republicans have the power to sabotage the economy and seem willing to do so.
Obama is aware the American economy faces two completely unnecessary crises — the sequester and another debt limit crisis, probably in late May.
The sequester will continue to inflict untold pain and ultimately kill 750,000 jobs. The last debt crisis cost the U.S. $18.9 billion and as many as a million jobs.
Now that the sequester is back in the headlines because businesspeople are affected, the real question we need to ask ourselves is: Why are we allowing the GOP to continue to afflict the poor and the middle class with the failed scam of austerity when we know it will only end up creating more debt?