Speaking Out! Sequestration, blow-by-blow
Last year as part of an agreement to increase the debt ceiling, Congress set caps on most discretionary spending and created a “super committee” with representatives from both the U.S. House and Senate and a mandate to find upwards of $1.5 trillion in additional budget savings. Intended to encourage agreement on a budget reduction plan, the Budget Control Act included provisions for automatic budget cuts in most defense and non-defense discretionary programs (exempting a few programs serving low-income beneficiaries) if the super committee could not agree on a plan of its own.
While efforts were made by the super committee to agree on a plan, bipartisan agreement was not reached. As a result of the committee’s failure, as the law provides, an automatic sequestration (which in Washington-speak is a way to say “cancellation of spending”) has been put in place, with cuts to take place in early January of 2012.
Last week we got a peek at the impact of sequestration to domestic programs. Senator Tom Harkin, chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, released a report that for the first time details the devastation to services for children and families from the automatic budget cuts. The study details the damage to social services for needy families state-by-state and blow-by-blow, and it makes clear that child advocates need to speak out against sequestration.
Sequestration would slash around $1.2 trillion from the federal budget. The money would come from cuts over a 10 year period and equally from defense and non-defensive spending. What this means is if Congress doesn’t change sequestration soon, the programs that children and families depend on face a $54.7 billion cut next year.
Last week’s report provides invaluable details on what this means for kids. Just three programs would have to absorb $2.7 billion of cuts under sequestration: Title I (which provides vital support for schools), special education state grants, and Head Start. These cuts would touch more than 30 million children. And this is just some of the damage that would be done with the sort of indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts that Congress will go through with if it doesn’t act to stop sequestration.
The full state-by-state impact is detailed in the report. It’s a must read for policymakers, child advocates, and anyone who’s concerned about what could happen to services for families under sequestration.
“Education cuts never heal”
Voices was at a rally against sequestration cuts last week attended by members of Congress, an official from the Obama administration, and many ordinary Americans who could be hurt by the cuts. Hundreds gathered on Capitol Hill to speak out, waving banners and singing cries of “education cuts never heal!”
Arne Duncan, head of the U.S. Department of Education, agreed. We need to “educate our way to a stronger economy.” Sequestration, then, is the wrong idea. It would target Title I, one of the fundamental federal supports for schools nationwide, with terrible cuts that sacrifice students and educators.
Several members of Congress gave speeches in support of protecting children and families from cuts. But most affecting were the ordinary Americans who shared how deep cuts threaten them and their families. One woman shared how three years ago she found herself a single mother who had no choice but to live in a homeless shelter with her infant daughter and apply for federal aid. This same woman now works with the social workers that once helped her, and motivates other women who find themselves in similar situations. She spoke about how there was “no way” she would have made it through those tough few months without the federal assistance she received. She expressed sincere worry she for the thousands of people currently on waiting lists for assistance—assistance that they will may never receive if sequestration takes effect.
We live-blogged the rally on Twitter. Follow us to get all our updates on advocacy and children!