March 4, 2013, Democratic Perspective tried to cut through all the hyperbole, misinformation and lies about sequestration. Sequestration represents mandatory spending cuts which were agreed to by Congress and President Obama ass the result of the debt ceiling debate in 2011. These are across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending that were intended to be so painful that legislators would be forced to negotiate more agreeable ways to reduce the federal deficit.
After reluctantly agreeing to raise income taxes on those making more than $400,000, Republicans refused to discuss further revenue options of any kind, and insisted on deficit reduction consisting of deep cuts to social programs and so-called entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.
When the president refused to agree to the cuts, he was forced to sign sequestration into law.
Although the cuts may not immediately be felt, if allowed to stand, they will be painful for almost everyone. For example, sequestration cuts $928 million for disaster relief aid, $289 million for the Center for Disease Control, and $175 million for energy assistance for the poor.
Sequestration cuts also include a 9 percent cut from unemployment checks and a cut of 2 percent from payments to Medicare providers. It will cut reimbursements to hospitals for unpaid medical care, cut mental assistance for up to 373,000 people, cut Head Start for 70,000 kids, and cut rental assistance for as many as 125,000 low-income families.
The cuts will force furloughs for FDA food inspectors, TSA agents, FAA controllers, and Border Patrol. And, of course, there will be large cuts to non-essential defense programs forcing layoffs and furloughs to civilian defense contractors.
In total, the cuts are expected to cost the nation as many as 750,000 jobs at a time when our economy is experiencing a fragile recovery. You can see how the cuts will affect your state on the linked interactive map.
None of this pain is necessary. This is a self-inflicted crisis. Congress created it and it can end it. All that’s needed is common sense compromise.
The direction of our economy was the central issue for last fall’s presidential election. President Obama ran for re-election on a balanced approach to deficit reduction. But it seems that Republicans didn’t get the message. Even though polls show that the majority of Americans agree with the president, Republican leaders have refused to negotiate in good faith. They claim the president has never offered a plan that includes spending cuts, yet there it is for all to see at WhiteHouse.gov.
The president’s plan calls for $2.50 in spending cuts for every $1.00 of new revenue, resulting in total deficit reduction of more than $4.3 trillion. The only new revenue comes from closing a variety of tax loopholes and limiting tax deductions to 28% for the wealthiest Americans.
This certainly would not seem unreasonable, especially since effective tax rates for wealthy Americans are near historic lows while their incomes are at historic highs.