It's here. Starting today, the fiscal manifestation of a dysfunctional Congress becomes real. Created over a year ago as a Sword of Damacles to ensure a sensible budget was created (voted into place by congressional Republicans), the "sequestor" was meant to be the financial equivalent of mutual assured destruction of nuclear weaponry.
The trigger was actually cocked last year when the Congress once again failed to agree on a budget that reduced the deficit the required amount (Republicans objected to tax increases and cuts in military spending; Democrats objected to cuts in domestic programs and "entitlements"). As the ball dropped in Times Square on New Years Eve, the sequestor took effect. Republicans were wise enough to understand the implications of immediate tax increases on everyone and finally allowed a bill to go through to retroactively prevent the tax increases on everyone making below $400K (although the FICA tax cut was allowed to expire). They punted the spending cuts down the road for two months.
So - here it is two months later. The House has only actually been in session for a handful of weeks, due to their lax schedule. Naturally, nothing has been accomplished with regards to the budget. The Speaker adjourned the House yesterday around lunch time, signaling that they were giving up on reaching an accord. Some members of both parties actually seem to be happy about this
. We can only assume they do not represent states that will be hardest hit by the automatic axe coming down.
So what does this mean? It means no more military flyovers at sporting events and airshows
. It means fewer air traffic controllers, fewer jobs for maintaining equipment at military bases, public parks with abbreviated hours, less money for infrastructure improvements, schools, and head start programs at a time when these all are in desperate need of cash. It also affects the small businesses that provide products and services to the people that staff these jobs. This will increase unemployment and hurt the economy
The White House has warned that the indiscriminate cuts are written into law in such a way that their impact cannot be alleviated.
It warns that 800,000 civilian employees of the Defense Department will go on a mandatory furlough one day a week and the navy will trim voyages. The deployment of a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf has been canceled.
About 70,000 children less than five years old will be cut from the Head Start preschool program, resulting in the elimination of 14,000 teaching positions. Services for special needs kids will also take a hit.
Authorities warn that average wait times for passengers at US immigration will increase by 30-50 percent and may exceed four hours during peak times.
Security lines will also grow longer as the Transportation Security Administration enacts a hiring freeze, eliminates overtime and furloughs 50,000 employees.
The National Institutes of Health and other federally-funded scientists will have to delay or halt research and the Food and Drug Administration will conduct 2,100 fewer inspections, escalating the risk of food-borne illnesses.
I wonder if the Republican politicians who fly home every weekend will experience the aggravation of longer lines and wait times at the airport? One hopes they will hear from their constituents as the ripples from this gross negligence in DC make their way across the country into their home districts.
Can anything be done about it? Last time they retroactively changed the law to prevent the tax increases. Is it possible they are thinking they'll regroup on Monday and try to hammer out a compromise that eliminates the sequestor altogether? The leaders are meeting today
, but there's no indication as to what - if anything - they'll be able to negotiate.
This does not bode well for the next budget, which is due in less than 28 days.