When the next edition of Webster’s Dictionary is released, chances are the word sequestration will be listed as an old term with new meaning.
Ever since the U.S. Congress decided in March to solve the nation’s budget deficit by demanding an automatic 5 percent cut in all federal programs — and named that action sequestration — the word has taken on great status.
Some of us count the times it is said during the evening news. Others of us count the times the word comes out of any politician’s mouth in a single speech.
But the real affects of sequestration aren’t humorous at all.
At a meeting last week where local social service agency officials sat with Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Derek Kilmer, the topic couldn’t be avoided. Both Murray and Kilmer stated their dislike of Congress’s use of sequestration to deal with the nation’s budget woes. They understand the impacts it is having on families right here in Kitsap County.
Military families are losing income due to furloughs. Schools are beginning to look for ways to deal with cuts to their Head Start programs. Mental health facilities are trying to determine which clients will not be able to be seen.
In the state as a whole, $11.6 million will be lost in federal education funds. More than 1,000 kids will be cut from Head Start. The state will have to cut 100 full time employees by mid-2014 if sequestration continues.
There will be 2,850 fewer children getting needed immunizations. HIV and AIDS testing for 4,300 will be cut and as many as 10,000 families will no longer receive assistance from the Women, Infants and Children nutrition programs.
And this is just some of what is ahead if Congress doesn’t look for other ways to increase revenue and more sensible ways to decrease spending.
That is why it is so upsetting to see that the one thing that seems to have gotten Congress’s attention when it comes to sequestration is the one thing that impacts them — air travel.
After federal sequestration cuts brought about furlough days for air traffic controllers, and the nation’s airports suddenly became a confusing mix of delayed and cancelled flights, Congress took action.
They pulled air traffic controllers from the mix and ceased the mandate to furlough the controllers.
Could it be that getting home from Washington D.C. became a nightmare they didn’t want to deal with?
Could it be that as Senators and Representatives they found themselves all the sudden a victim of their own actions?
Maybe. But it does seem strange that it took only one week without the full power of America’s airports for Congress to decide air travel was the one place that they weren’t going to allow sequestration to continue.
Congress needs to get to work and resolve the budget problems with real answers.
Congress needs to end the sequestration soon before real families with real needs are dangerously affected, be it in education, housing, mental health needs, or just their paychecks.
Think about that next time you board a plane, Mr. Congressman.