Washington, D.C. is preparing for another economic showdown with enormous implications. Sequestration – a schmancy word for government spending cuts – is commencing in less than a week, unless Congress and President Obama can secure a deal that will circumvent the disaster.
Congress passed a compromise law in 2011 that would force automatic budget cuts in 2013 unless Capitol Hill officials and POTUS could reach an agreement that would reduce $4 trillion of the deficit, according to the White House. These cuts would continue through 2021 and total $1.2 trillion. Sequestration is full of unappealing cuts designed to bring Democrats and Republicans to the table to prevent them. Both parties have reduced the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion over the past two years; but the full proposed amount hasn’t been reached, so some of the sequester is scheduled to roll on March 1.
Here’s a visual representation of sequestration from the White House.
If sequestration proceeds, the impact will be immediate. We will recognize it in airports with less Transportation Security Administration agents and numerous canceled and delayed flights. We will see it when government employees are sent home waiting for a deal to be passed. We will understand sequestration when unemployment makes a massive leap from 8 percent to the double digits. We will feel it when our income taxes are returned much later than expected.
Though the impact of sequestration will impact most Americans, the Pew Research Center found that 40 percent think the cuts should proceed if President Obama and Congress can’t reach on an effective deficit reduction agreement. That percentage may include women and other minorities, but these consequences may shift their perspective:
- The Friends of Maternal and Child Health Coalition, a group of national and state organizations that support national maternal and child health policies, reports that sequestration will eliminate almost $1 billion in federal funding for women and children. It will remove more than $400 million from Head Start, forcing 70,000 minority children out of the program.
- Title I funding, which services disadvantaged students and low-income schools, would face $726 million in cuts according to the Center for American Progress. These slashes would impact 2,700 schools and more than 9,000 teachers.
- The Friends of MCH Coalition also found that a program that provides breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income women would be cut by $8 million. This could mean more than 31,000 fewer cancer screenings for uninsured and underinsured women.
- The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, is also included in these budget slashes. The program would lose $543 million in funding, causing 600,000 participants to risk a reduction or total removal of benefits. If this happens, women of color would be disproportionately impacted, since 450,000 of us receive WIC according to the Friends of MCH Coalition.
- Long-term unemployment benefits are also on the chopping block. The long-term unemployed, classified as those who have been without work for more than six months, could lose almost 10 percent of their weekly jobless benefits according to the Center for American Progress. Again, these cuts have a deeper impact on minority communities, since 13.8 percent of blacks are unemployed.
- The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which helped about 23 million low-income people this winter, is also in danger of losing funding.
Combine this with the impact that sequestration will have on individual states and their workforces and the results are catastrophic. Americans will suffer if Congress and President Obama can’t reach an effective agreement. Federal budget cuts, which impact state and local public-sector jobs, are instant. Since African-Americans comprise 20 percent of this workforce, the impact will be felt in homes throughout the United States.
The sequestration is another war waging in D.C. that has real-life consequences.
For further information and an interactive map detailing the impact of sequestration on each state, click here.