Sequester hits town

For Your Consideration

June 18, 2013 

What is the Sequester? How did it evolve? How does it affect you and the economy? Think of the Sequester as King Solomon's decision to split the baby in half when two women were disputing whose baby it was. The Sequester was spawned from the debt ceiling dispute.

Let's first understand what the debt ceiling is. If you are like me you probably thought the debt ceiling was the limit placed on future government spending given the rhetoric. I've come to learn that is false.

Then what is it? It is actually the Congress approving payment of money already spent by the government. What — You mean the government first spends the money then has to get approval from Congress to pay for it. Yep.

Think of it this way. You tell your husband (or wife), the person controlling the purse strings, that you spent money on food, clothing, mortgage, auto repairs, doctor bills and medicine and a new set of golf clubs for him. The credit card bill comes and you ask if he would give you the money to pay the bill.

He says no because you spent more than "what we make in gross income." He won't pay the bill till you promise to reduce spending to 90% of your gross income. You're worried because not paying your credit card bill will hurt your family's health and well-being, so you agree.

You are willing to cut back on the golf clubs and luxuries (equivalent, in federal terms, to tax cuts, loopholes and subsidies to the rich and discretionary items). He says "you can't cut the goodies." You can't agree so you both appoint six close friends and relatives for each side (the super committee) to come up with a solution. They say if you don't accept our solution, you have to accept a 10% across the board cut (the Sequester is born).

This is like King Solomon deciding to split the baby in half if the two women can't agree. Like King Solomon, Obama believed that the two parties would never hurt Americans by enacting the Sequester.

He was right about the Dems. Three times the Dems proposed an alternative to the Sequester. GOP leader Boehner would not allow a vote on the replacement bill and did not propose an alternative. The GOP wanted to split the baby in half.

So how does it affect Oakhurst residents? Nationally 70,000 children will lose access to Head Start (an education, health and nutrition program). Oakhurst has a Head Start Pre-school. Chemotherapy treatments, thousands have been cut. Low-income seniors with disabilities and families with children are losing rental assistance. Fees on direct student loans are going up. Meals on wheels for low-income and disabled seniors are being cut. About 400,000 households will no longer receive Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programs.

At our senior center, Senior Employment Resources used to hire three employees in the nutrition program. Now it has been cut to one, Betty Persson, and her hours have been cut in half. Seniors rely heavily on this and other programs. The Brown Bag program gives seniors a bag of groceries per month for $20 annually so they can continue to eat after their Social Security runs out. Senior transportation and Camarena Health will have to cut back services. Manna House will be overcrowded.

Splitting the baby seems okay with Boehner & Co. since the downtrodden are not their babies. It's like Senators Tom Coburn and Rand Paul opposing Sandy disaster relief until it was their state that needed it.

A recent article in Forbes describes this GOP action best:

"You see, it's not that the Republicans don't understand the damage the sequester will do to an economy whose recovery is just now taking hold. Rather, it is that Republicans have resolved to permit the terrible results of the sequester because they have convinced themselves that since the idea originated over at the White House — it will be the president who will suffer the severe political consequences that will surely result — consequences Congressional Republicans believe will grant them a considerable political advantage even if achieved through the pain of their fellow Americans." – Forbes, 2/6/2013.

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