As the sequester deadline inevitably approaches on Thursday, most of the news is about which party is going to win the “blame game” surrounding it. But if the federal government is forced to slash its budget through sequestration, it is not going to be Congress members or the president that are hurt the most. It is going to be the typical government worker, the state governments, and the people who rely on essential government services: the little guys.
Sure, the political ramifications are important. Who gets the blame for the problems caused by the sequestration could very well help determine which 1990's political dynasty gets another run at the presidency. Not quite as much attention is going to the non-political ramifications, though, one cause of a larger overall problem – only the politically active really hear about or care about the sequester. It isn’t only the politically active who will be affected, though.
First, a quick run-down on what the sequestration is. After all, only about 27% of Americans have really even heard much about it. It is the latest iteration of the “automatic spending cuts” drama. At the end of this week, about $80 billion or so will be slashed from the federal government, both from military and non-military budgets. The Democrats are counting on these cuts hurting the economy, proving that government spending helps the economy, and the Republics are counting on nothing too big happening, proving cuts are worthwhile. If the GDP contraction earlier this year resulting from defense cuts is any indication, we’ll feel the impact.
So, who will feel the impact? State governments will be, for one. Governors from all over the place came out to decry the sequestration (with a few notable exceptions). As (Republican) Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell put it, “the sequester was put in place to be a hammer, not a policy.” He and Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland are both very concerned about defense cuts, since Maryland and Virginia depend very heavily on D.C.-adjacent defense spending.
It isn’t only the Beltway states, though. Utah, for example will lose: $6.3 million for primary and secondary education; $5.7 million for special education; $1.3 million for environmental protection; almost a million more in wildlife grants, $83.5 million lost in defense jobs; $59,000 in support for victims of domestic violence, and more.
Some more specific groups will be hit hard, too. Airports will be closed. National parks like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon could lose visitor services. Chicken farmers in my hometown area of Maryland and Delaware will lose out due to cuts to food safety inspectors. The American Hospital Association is facing cuts in medical research. The Metro, Washington, D.C.,’s subway system, could face declining revenues because of furloughs to the Federal employees that make up 40% of the Metro’s ridership … the list goes on.
So, with all the talk that is going to happen this weekend about who is winning and losing from this in the grand political game, let’s all try to remember the smaller programs that are really taking the brunt of this negotiation failure. It is that type of little cuts that got my mother laid off a few years ago when the recession hit, and it is those little cuts that will be the end of a lot more careers next week.