March 3, 2013

The American Sequester

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past month, chances are you’ve already heard of the incoming 85 billion dollar sequestration spending cuts, notably hitting important agencies such associated with defense, education and even air traffic control. Domestic cuts will focus on minimizing the costs in agencies ranging from fire departments, FBI, national parks, housing aid, federal courts and health groups.

Many are criticizing defense cuts as they believe it would lead the United States to military unpreparedness. In order to compensate for the cuts, some have in fact proposed that employees of the military take a mandatory day of leave a week.

Another aspect of the sequestration involves the US-Canada border. The cuts are also expected to impact jobs in Customs and Border Protection. More than 5,700 border agents are expected to be laid off, which could result in border wait times lasting longer than four hours!

While all schools will be affected by the cuts, it appears that the most vulnerable students and programs will be targeted. Families currently receiving funding from IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) may lose government aid. Schools located in poorer neighbourhoods that were receiving Title I funding are also going to be hit with losses.

Many small airports (those with fewer than 150,000 flights a year) are facing the loss of their air traffic controllers. This will reduce flight safety and possibly cause even longer delays at airports. Most likely affected are those airports just under the limit of 150,000 flights, as some pilots may feel unsafe flying to airports servicing such a high amount of flights when there is no air traffic control. Due to this, there will probably be reduced flights to airports, resulting in more layoffs.

With tragedies such as the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown last year, mental health has been a definite priority to health groups in America. However, with the introduction of the sequestration, people suffering from mental health issues will receive less medication or none at all.

Regardless of how major these budget cuts may appear, many are not surprised as America has buried itself under a $16 trillion national debt due to a combination of intense spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as billion dollar stimulus packages designed to rejuvenate the economy. Fact is, this issue has arisen multiple times since 2011 when the debt ceiling debate began and Republicans demanded budget cuts.

In the previous quarter, ending December 31, 2012, revised US economic reports showed almost-flat gain of 0.1%. Seeing that the economy grew so little during the holiday season, this is an indicator of a fragile economic recovery. These cuts could possibly cause the US economy to shrink.

As of the first of March, the consequences of partisan politics are finally catching up as the sequester took effect across the nation. Many fear being laid off as America begins feeling the effects of paying off its national debt.