by Benjamin J. Kirby
Well, all my life I've expected only the best of things
Now I see your clouds and they are appearing
And these strange sensations have such an, oh, so familiar ring
Rain on the window and tears on my pillow
The wind in my mind keeps a-blowin'
Came in this morning
The wind is blowing strong
We must hold on to wait another day, we must go o
-- The Pure Prairie League, Tornado Warning
Happy Sequestration Week! As you may -- or may not, (though, really, given the full court press coverage, how could you not?) -- know the massive budget cuts called "sequester" are set to kick in on Friday. That's about $85 billion -- with a b -- worth of spending cuts, across the board.
Look, I'm not an economist, but I don't think there's anyone who thinks this is a good idea. I've not read one single, solitary thing that says the thing to do in a slowly recovering economy is budget cuts. Indeed, the opposite is true:
...we estimate policymakers truly committed to a full and durable recovery would need to target roughly $1.5 trillion to $2.2 trillion in additional fiscal support over the next three years.
In other words, the government needs to be spending more money, not cutting back!
The sequester cuts mean the very real possibility of the nation slipping back into recession. So of course, the tea party freaks love it.
But these cuts are real, with real consequences. Here in Florida, the effects will be immediate and readily apparent:
With federal budget cuts looming, MacDill Air Force Base is bracing for the possibility of civilian employee furloughs and the cancellation of Airfest.
There are about 3,000 civilian employees at MacDill. Most of those workers could be affected, said Terry Montrose, a spokesman for the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill.
If a deal can't be reached, civilians would be forced to take an average of one unpaid day every week for up to 22 weeks, Montrose said. The furloughs would start April 25.
"This equates to a 20 percent cut in pay," Montrose said in an email. "We are deeply concerned about the negative effects of furloughs on the morale and effectiveness of our valued civilian workforce."
Congratulations, tea party. That's 3,000 Tampa Bay area families whose lives get thrown into chaos.
And that's not the worst of it for Florida [PDF, via the White House]:
Teachers and Schools: Florida will lose approximately $54.5 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 750 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 95,000 fewer students would be served and approximately130 fewer schools would receive funding.
o Education for Children with Disabilities: In addition, Florida will lose approximately $31.1 million in funds for about 380 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.
Protections for Clean Air and Clean Water: Florida would lose about $5.2 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Florida could lose another $1.1 million in grants for fish and wildlife protection.
Those 3,000 or so up at MacDill? Only 3,000 of 31,000 in Florida:
Military Readiness: In Florida, approximately 31,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $183.2 million in total.
It is, like these things always seem to be, bad for children, too:
Child Care: Up to 1,600 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care, which is also essential for working parents to hold down a job.
Vaccines for Children: In Florida around 7,450 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $509,000.
Those are just some highlights. It gets worse. Here's a nation-wide impact:
A vast majority of FAA’s nearly 47,000 employees would be furloughed for approximately one day per pay period, with a maximum of two days per pay period. The furlough of a large number of air traffic controllers and technicians would require a reduction in air traffic to a level that could be safely managed by the remaining staff, resulting in slower air traffic in major cities, as well as delays and disruptions across the country during the critical summer travel season.
Disrupted air travel? We're all still bitching about shoes and full-body nekkid picture scans. Not being able to fly anywhere at all so that the crazy hat lunatics can blubber on about FREEEDOOOMMM!!!
...well. That's just not going to work.
So here's my little prediction. I say that sequester -- like the debt ceiling debacle before it -- will actually come. We'll get to Friday, cuts will happen, and then there'll be a series of back-room deals to band-aid over the worst of the cuts. If the deal comes to a vote in the House, the tea party contingent will vote "no" on it, again, much like the debt ceiling deal.
And they will become that much more outside the mainstream.
For what it's worth to you, I truly hope it doesn't happen, mostly because if it does, I think the worst legacy of it would be that it would represent our "new normal."
I hope I'm wrong.