After the Fiscal Cliff: Sequestration

Luis Badillo, Writer


Sequestration will be affecting millions of Americans, including NEIU student and Veteran Matt P. Torres.
Photo by Matt P. Torres

Sequestration is a measure implemented from the 2011 compromise in which President Obama agreed to spending-cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. Failing to do so meant that “America can’t pay its bills,” as the President put it.
With that deal, Congress was given a deadline. Either figure out a new budget or face harsh automatic spending cuts across the board. These cuts amount to $95 billion for 2012 and $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. That is what sequestration, or the sequester, is.
The cuts, scheduled to kick in on March 1, 2013, after being extended two months, were supposed to motivate both Democrats and Republicans to work together in order to find a less painful way to find room in the budget. Half of the cuts were to come from mostly Democrat supported entitlement programs, while the other half was to be cut from the Republican defended defense budget.
March 1 has come and gone, and no deal was established, meaning that the doomsday scenario that was never supposed to happen is actually happening.
President Obama asserted that the sequestration will prove to be a burden to the American people. According to CBS news reports, Obama indicated that the cuts will result in “hundreds of thousands of lost jobs, crippling losses for the nation’s public education system, defense cuts that would leave the country unprepared for future military engagements, and a number of day-to-day inconveniences, like long lines at the airport and the shuttering of public parks.”
Republicans express a different message. Though many are less than thrilled in regards to the large amounts of military spending cuts, others are just as happy to see any sort of cut happen. Just before the implementation of the sequester, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan told NPR news that “The sequester should happen. That’s going to happen in two days. That’s good. First significant savings for the American taxpayer in a long, long – since I’ve been here. I’ve been here six years – first time we’ve actually saved the taxpayer some real money.”
Though it was in the best interests for both parties to disarm this economical time-bomb, Republicans and Democrats failed to come up with plans that both sides could agree on. Now, both parties are working on separate plans to replace the sequester.
While politicians figure out how to deal with sequestration, many Americans worry about dealing with sequestration in their daily lives. Experts are estimating that the sequester will hurt the economy as a whole and affect unemployment numbers negatively. The Office of Management and Budget predicted that the Gross Domestic Product would drop 1.5 percentage points, in an interview with the Washington Post. Economist Stephen Fuller of George Mason University projected 746,000 jobs directly lost to the sequester; 326,000 in defense related jobs, and 420,000 in non-defense.
Some programs designed to help low income families are not affected by the sequester, namely welfare and food stamp programs. NEIU students should be relieved to know that the Pell Grant, which is attainable through FAFSA, is exempt as well. Unemployment benefits will remain largely untouched, with the exception of federally funded Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC); Payouts to those under EUC will drop an estimated 11 percent. Many other programs and agencies will be facing major funding cuts, even though none are being outright shut down.
Military pay won’t be reduced, but benefits will. Just ask Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) student and veteran, Matt P. Torres. Having served in Iraq with the Marines, Torres relies greatly on those benefits to help him through school. “It used to be a flat rate every month, but now they pro rate it to the exact number of days you’re in school,” he explained. “The gap between spring and summer classes would make you miss up to half a month of what you’d normally get out of the G.I. Bill,” Torres continued. Because of this, Torres says he now has to work construction with his grandfather during breaks to supplement his income. He asked, “Haven’t I given enough?”
The true effects of sequestration won’t be seen immediately. “It will be like a rolling ball” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. She asserted that the $1.2 trillion in cuts will slowly but surely be felt by the American public. “It will keep growing.” And with that growth, there is a threat of a government shutdown. The idea of a government shutdown is promised to be completely avoided by both parties. However, that’s also what they said about sequestration.