Nel's New Day

August 5, 2013

GOP Sequester Destroys the United States

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:08 PM
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House members have gone on vacation for a long time, but the stench of GOP votes lingers on. Last week, they voted to block federal funding for ACORN—for the 13th time since the GOP took over the chamber in 2011. Whether anyone believed in the mission of ACORN is moot. The anti-poverty organization staffed by low-income people was disbanded in 2010, almost a full year before the GOP started its worthless votes. “Word is the majority will also prohibit foreign aid to the Ottoman Empire this year,” said a Democratic congressional aide. Although the Empire was dissolved after World War I, the aide might be correct.

Even if ACORN still existed, Congress voted in 2009 to defund any organization charged with breaking federal or state laws with the ban extending to employees, contractors, or others affiliated with the charged group. That means a law already exists to do what the GOP has proposed for 13 times.

What could the House do instead of voting against ACORN? Maybe fixing the draconian cuts of the sequester. Not much chance of this happening because theyll be session only nine days in the next two months.

The negative effects of the sequester are obvious only five months after the it went into effect. Although the economic growth was 1.7 percent in the quarter from April to June, it would have been stronger without the sequester’s loss of between 900,000 and 1.6 million jobs. During that same quarter, government consumption and investment declined by 1.5 percent; reversing sequestration would add 0.7 to 1.2 percentage points to GDP.

The sequester cut 1.5 million people off unemployment insurance. Parents with jobs don’t have child care, low-income kids don’t have preschool through Head Start, and teachers don’t have jobs. Nearly $600 million has been cut from special education funding and $700 million from assistance to low-income school districts. Meals on Wheels and funding for state parks have been cut. Medicare patients can’t get cancer treatments. The National Institutes of Health has delayed or halted 700 research awards that help fund the study of diseases affecting millions of Americans.

Sequestration will cause 337,000 victims of domestic violence, child sexual abuse, adult sexual assault, and other crimes to lose critical support and services through the Crime Victims Fund. The cuts of up to 2,100 food inspections can result in outbreaks of foodborne illness, always a serious threat to families and public health.

The U.S. Forest Service’s $2 billion-a-year firefighting budget has lost tens of millions of dollars with its 5-percent cut. That means 500 fewer firefighters and 50 fewer fire engines than last year as well as 100 fewer seasonal firefighter positions. This year’s fire season may be even more disastrous than the one last year, the third-worst in decades, when 9.3 million acres burned.

Small businesses will suffer from the $1 billion cut from small business loan guarantees.

Potentially dangerous criminals on probation will not be monitored as well as in the past because of reduced staffing. “Funding for salaries and operations in the probation and pretrial services system has been reduced 14 percent for this fiscal year, and resources for location monitoring, mental health and substance abuse treatment have been cut 20 percent,” said  Thomas Hogan, director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

In more than 20 states, federal defense is closing offices and laying off between one-third and one-half of the staff. Without public defenders, arrested people receive help from private court-appointed attorneys who charge much more, and jail costs go up as arrested people spend more time waiting for trials. Long trial postponements cause the risk of cases being thrown out of court such as the trial for alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial after federal public defender furloughs in Massachusetts. And it will only get worse. This year’s cut to the budget is 9 percent; without any legislation next year will see up to a 23-percent reduction, 97 furlough days for each federal defender causing each person four and a half months without pay.

GOP legislators don’t look at the above cuts as problems. Instead they complained last spring about the closure of White House tours.    Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) got angry because the Blue Angels military planes flying demonstrations were cut back. In the pattern of blaming the president for any cuts from the sequestration, he said:

“President Obama’s administration should be ashamed for trying to convince the American people that our only choices when it comes to dealing with the debt are either to leave government as big and bloated as it is, or accept a new reality where our people have to endure longer lines at the airport, endless flight delays, the loss of safety net medical assistance, the denial of education services, and many other inconveniences and negative effects to people’s day-to-day lives.”

Inconvenience for lawmakers resulted in one change that they fixed. In order to not have their flights delayed, Congress voted to strip funding for airport.

Rubio’s GOP governor, Rick Scott, criticized the sequester because of National Guard furloughs in the midst of hurricane season. Instead of blaming his senator, Scott faulted the National Guard:  “The problem is you’re losing training time, you’re losing preparation time. When will the National Guard make the decision that we stop the furloughs? Right after the hurricane hits?”

The House can be expected to vote a fix for any cuts that embarrass them. The week before they left town, GOP members voted to stop furloughs for civilian Defense Department employees. The Pentagon’s 11 weeks of furloughs starting in mid-July resulted in a 20-percent-weekly pay cut through September for 680,000 of the Pentagon’s roughly 800,000 civilian employees, the equivalent of 250,000 jobs. During debate, GOP representatives criticized President Obama for not solving the sequester program that they put into law.

Half the cuts of sequestration are in the area of defense because the defense budget is huge. Although salaries, benefits, and military bases are preserved, the Air Force has grounded a third of its fighter squadrons, keeping pilots and mechanics from doing their jobs and canceled its combat training exercises and courses at the Air Force Weapons School.

The Army also sharply reduced training above the basic squad and platoon level and halted depot maintenance for the rest of the fiscal year. With cuts of 37,000 flying hours, the Army will have a shortfall of 500 pilots. The Army is also considering a 100,000-person cut to its active duty force, creating constant deployment in any war situation.

Two-thirds of the Navy’s non-deployed ships and aviation squadrons won’t meet readiness targets by the end of the fiscal year. The Navy has also delayed planned fleet deployments, including the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman to the Persian Gulf and the frigate USS Thach to the South Atlantic.

The Marine Corps has already gone from 202,000 to 182,000 members and could lose 8,000 troops as well as two of its key next-generation weapons systems under sequestration. Fewer personnel requires the Corps to cut back on its purchases of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and eliminate its participation in the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program to replace the Humvee combat trucks.

The intelligence community is trimming contracts, collection systems, and analysis and may decommission some satellite reconnaissance systems.

Three months ago, the House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) called the sequester “idiotic” but said he was hemmed in by the Budget Control Act, the House-passed budget, and House rules. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) summarized the GOP position:

“The fact that the sequester went into effect has been another thing that has taken some of the pressure off and a lot of members of Congress will publicly complain and moan about the sequester and privately say better that somebody else makes the decision than us. Unfortunately that’s what happens.”

Almost 40 percent of people in the country are impacted by the sequester, and a majority of people disapprove of the cuts. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats, 54 percent of Republicans, and 58 percent of independents oppose sequestration.

The sequester is doing exactly what the conservatives want it to do—hurt the nation’s economy, take benefits from people who need them, and undermine the country for no good reason. Lawmakers are supposed to make decisions; Republicans have decided that this is not their job. As Robert Reich pointed out, Republicans want high unemployment and low job-growth to keep wages down, to fuel Wall Street, and to maintain the fear and insecurity among the people of the United States.


1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on New NY 23rd and commented:
    Remember the Sequester? This article reminds us of what it has done to the economic growth, unemployment insurance, the Crime Victims Fund, US Forest Service, Small Business Loans, Reduce Probation Staffing, Public Defenders, Natural Guard, Marine Corps, Navy Ships Readiness.


    Comment by pystew — August 6, 2013 @ 2:51 PM | Reply

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