GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 18, 2013

Letter: Sequester cuts targeting our most vulnerable


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Back in August of 2011, when the term “sequester” first entered our collective vocabulary and consciousness, we were assured we had nothing to fear from it because the consequences of the sequester becoming reality were so dire that no thinking politician, Democrat or Republican, would allow it to happen.

Reasonable Republicans and Democrats alike thought the possibility of such dire consequences becoming reality would result in cooler heads prevailing and some reasonable compromises being reached.

They were mistaken.

Mainstream Republicans and the party leadership, terrified of primary challenges from the extreme right if they compromised with the president and congressional Democrats on taxes and spending, decided to allow the sequester to kick in and then mounted a media campaign to try to convince us it would have a minimal impact.

Many of the sequester’s long-term negative impacts have not been felt immediately since it became reality last month. But already, the sequester has resulted in hefty funding cuts to veterans’ college education programs. The sequester has all but eliminated the education trust fund that was established for the children of U.S. servicemen and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On the domestic front, sequester-mandated cuts to early childhood education programs like Head Start will result in tens of thousands of eligible, low-income children around the country being denied access to those proven programs.

Federal funding for programs that assist HIV positive people in accessing their life sustaining medications is in serious jeopardy due to cuts that are looming as a result of the sequester. HIV positive people who cannot afford to pay privately for their medications, and given the annual price tag for those life sustaining meds, very few people can, could well die as a result of cuts imposed by the sequester in the coming months.

These cuts are going to have a particularly devastating effect, at least at first, on the already most vulnerable among us. But eventually, the effects of the sequester are going to be felt in many places.

The Congressional Budget Office recently released a rather lengthy list of the programs, services, research projects, and jobs the sequester mandated cuts are likely to eliminate in the months ahead, both in the public and private sectors, along with some unsettling predictions as to what all this austerity is likely to do to the still fragile economic recovery.

Austerity was tried in Europe, and anyone who thinks it has worked should look at Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Greece, where what started out as recessions have devolved into full blown depressions, and unemployment in most of those countries is now in excess of 25 percent.

Americans are looking for leaders, of both parties, to behave like adults and come up with intelligent and balanced solutions to the fiscal problems and challenges confronting the nation.

Unfortunately, it looks like we are going to be looking and waiting for that kind of leadership for a while longer.

MICHAEL COOK

Gloucester