Sequester cuts: Your life is about to get worse

The list of cuts could mean you are merely inconvenienced at the airport or you could lose your job. Photo: Unemployment lines could become longer AP

WASHINGTON, February 25, 2013 — A sequester tsunami is about to hit America on Friday, March 1. And make no mistakes about its impact: You are going to feel it.

Congress, thanks to the Republicans refusing to budge on tax rate and loophole reform on the millionaire class and corporations, is about to cause an economic earthquake that will wallop many of us with the force of a tsunami. At first, however, like a tsunami, it will seem like nothing more than a very low tide until the thirty foot wall of cuts moves ashore, crashing down on us.

Traveling is going to be tougher

Hyperbole as many Republicans say? Not at all.

In fact many economic experts describe the consequences as chaotic if not catastrophic since $85 billion this year alone must be cut from the budget by September 30, just seven months from now. That means an 8.2% cut across the board cut and for the military it is a 9.2% hit. 

Between 750,000 and one million jobs could be gone by the end of 2013. If the projection holds true, the sequester could cost the U.S. more than four times the number of jobs it gained just last month. Such a massive job loss would siphon too much money out of the economy too quickly, placing our economy at an even greater risk.

So if sequestration is as dire as predicted, how would it affect you? Those answers and more below:

Economy: Economic experts inside and outside the government say that sequestration cuts would reduce the U.S. growth by about one-half of a percentage point in 2013, slowing the arrival of a recovery and producing still another year of sluggish growth and high unemployment. 

Unemployed: The first to feel the impact will be those who can least take the blow, the unemployed. The unemployment checks will go out March 7 with a 9.4% reduction in payments, making life that much harder for the jobless.

Those with jobs may be looking for them soon, either due to layoffs in the government work force or layoffs with defense contractors. These five states would feel it the most: Maryland — Virginia — Washington — California — Arizona

Education: Sequestration translates into thousands and thousands of teachers and educators being laid off. Under the sequester, education funding will be cut 9.1% in 2013, according to the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities. A $1.1 billion reduction in 2013 federal funds for special needs education would result in nearly 15,000 special education teachers losing their jobs.

The result would mean higher student-teacher ratios and thus larger class size, as well as slashing support personnel such as aides who give valuable assistance to special educators.

Science: Basic scientific research will get a body blow from the sequester cuts. One of the hardest hit of all the agencies will be the National Institute of Health (NIH). Following ten years of flat funding for NIH, the sequester “will devastate biomedical research,” according to the United Medical Research group.

Also on the ropes will be the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which ensures the safety of our food; NASA and its Exploration program; NOAH, which tracks and predicts the weather for consumers, the government and businesses; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and the U.S. Geological Survey, which tracks our natural resources and natural hazards like earthquakes.

Border patrol checks papers

Health: Doctors and other medical professionals, who offer care to Medicare patients, will feel the pinch. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose their access to primary and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.

Add to this, $2.5 billion will be cut from the NIH after sequestration, restricting the agency’s ability to give research grants and carry out their own studies into fatal diseases and cancer, which means down the road we will fall further behind in medical research and cures, ultimately affecting the health of all of us. 

Defense Department: Letters will be sent out by April from the Defense Department, notifying employees that lay offs and unpaid furloughs will now start.

Just the threat of these cuts has forced the Navy to delay the deployment of an aircraft carrier that was scheduled to leave for the Persian Gulf. Military leaders have said that changes like this affect America’s ability to respond to threats in unstable parts of the world. 

While Defense officials warn that the military will be devastated by the cuts, basically making it a hollow fighting force and hamper the readiness of our troops, the first wave of impacts will slam its own civilian workforce as it plans to furlough 800,000 Defense employees up to 22 days through the end of September. That means no work with no pay and that furher drags down the economy.

Travel: One of the biggest impacts on travelers will be felt after the budget cleaver forces cutbacks in the number of air traffic controllers and TSA workers, which means longer delays getting through airport security and then into the air. Expect 90-minute delays at the airport. 

Kentucky air traffic control tower is slated to be closed AP

Plus the National Weather Service, according to the Washington Post, may shut down its radar on sunny days in the South. Sounds reasonable till you think about summer storms and hurricanes that can materialize with no warning.

Our borders: U.S. Customs and Border Protection has notified its union and non-union employees that they face a 14-day furlough if the sequester happens. That means longer lines for international travelers, but worse it means the borders along Mexico and Canada are now less secure than ever. 

Crime fighting: FBI agents will be furloughed and federal prosecutors will have to close cases and/or let criminals go. 

Thanks to an expected $555 million cut, our federal district courts could be closed one day each week. The courts may also be forced to cut their own security, impose furloughs or resort to other cost cutting strategies that could increase the waiting period before a trial. 

Business: One major aspect of sequestration is the impact it will have on small businesses that do contract work for the government. Construction companies, local-level IT contractors and small equipment manufacturers could take a heavy hit as they see their contracts evaporate in the wake of sequestration. While big companies can weather the storm, small businesses could easily go under as a result of sequestration

However, Business Insider identifies eleven corporations that will take a massive hit when sequestration sweeps across America: DynCorp, International; Harris Corporation; Computer Sciences Corp.; Booz Allen Hamilton; Hewlett-Packard; General Dynamics Corp.; Raytheon Co.; SAIC; Boeing; Northrop Grumman Corp.; and Lockheed Martin Corp.

Because sequestration demands the same across the board cuts, no agency or department is immune to its effects. At first you personally may not even feel it, like an earthquake that happens far out at sea. But slowly the economic waves swell and start racing for the shore.

Don’t be like the poor people of Phucket, Thailand and be lulled by the lapping of today’s low tide. Just beyond the horizon looms the tsunami, unless Congress does the impossible: compromise.

For more about sequestration be sure to read:

The sequester: Answers to your questions

The sequester problem: Is Obama the cause?

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

Contact Catherine Poe


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