Sunday, 28 April 2013

"Sequestration" a primer for readers outside the USA, a call to action by American Chrsitains.

At long last I discovered why the current Congress and President induced fiscal crisis is called “sequestration”.

It means that funds which have been approved in a budget (and God knows when the USA had a budget) could be sequestered by the treasury, and thus not released for spending, in effect making huge cuts in government expenditures.

This mad cap idea was agreed in the Budget Control Act of 2011.  

The thought was that the sequestration idea was so crazy, and the automatic ($85 billion) cuts so unthinkable, that the Senate, House and President would come to agreement for a budget for 2013.

(It was a bit like the President Obama, House Majority Leader Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid saying “we’ll get into a car together, set the cruise control to 85 mph, but there will be no hands on the steering wheel or foot on the brake until we are about to drive over a cliff, and at that point one of us will grab the wheel and step on the brakes”)

In the event not one of the three stepped on the brakes, or grabbed the steering wheel.  The car drove over the “fiscal cliff”.

Obama gave great speeches about driving, but did nothing. 

 Reid said “I am not sure if I should use the brakes and slow us down, or grab the wheel and make a u-turn, so I’ll do neither.  

Boehner (sitting of course in the back of the car) grinned and said “well, we Republicans have just gotten everything we wanted, drastic cut in expenditures, without a single penny of additional taxes”.

Sequestration has happened. Funds which Congress has allocated will not be released.

The President had forecast grim consequences if sequestration happened.  

The first consequence noted by the press (and there were many others which the press chose to ignore) was the furloughing of Flight Controllers, and the subsequent delays for flights.  

The House and Senate cobbled together a quick legislative fix, and the President leaned over backwards to sign it.  

[This does not involve the releasing of additional funds to the Federal Aviation Authority, but it gives the FAA the authority to  switch around already allocated funds  -  so for instance, monies which the FAA had requested for infrastructure (airport improvements etc) could instead be used to pay salaries.]

In the meantime the consequences of sequestration “on the ground” have begun to bite.

Here is an article from Utah – a State which is hardly a place for bleeding liberal hearts, in fact it is one of the most conservative of States.

And more to the Christian point here is an article by Margaret, an Episcopal Priest in what is most likely the poorest place in these United States.  Margaret’s article has done the rounds, but I include it so that American Voters can use it as they write their Senators and Representatives.


My name is Margaret. I am the Episcopal priest serving the Cheyenne River Reservation. It is a difficult job, at best, but I have never felt more fully alive than when serving the good people of South Dakota.

Here is my concern: The "Sequester" cuts have cut to the bone here on the Reservation. Our Social Services workers will be working without a direct office supervisor, and will be expected to absorb the work load of their supervisor when she is laid off beginning May 1. They already each have over 150 clients. I have heard one serves more than 260 clients --adding more is going to make a difficult job impossible.

But more importantly, the clients themselves have been cut off --they have received no monies since the beginning of March. They are coming to my door asking for heating fuel, food, clothes, diapers. Children are at risk. There are no Tribal programs that can assist these folks, they are mostly disabled, elderly with grandchildren in the home, or are desperate for work. Last night, after a funeral, I delivered left over food to people's homes. Funeral food to a family of six of baloney sandwiches, biscuits, two apples, two oranges and some chocolate cake.

I cannot afford to feed all the people who come to my door asking for help. I have emptied my own freezer, my own cupboard in order to help these desperate folks.

I would like to invite you and any one else who is interested to come and stay here for ten days. Just ten days. I would like you to open my door and hear the stories, see the faces, see the desperation and despair. I would like you to feed the people from my freezer --and when it is empty explain to them why it is they have to go hungry and cold.

I would like you to attend the funeral I would probably do sometime in that 10 days and see the faithfulness, the generosity, the generational grief. I would like you to come with me on home visits and see the extreme poverty out of which that faithfulness and generosity and grief springs.

In the last six months, I have done 40 funerals --six infants, two teen suicides, and many, many folks under the age 40.

And food, shelter and heat are not the only problems here --the Indian Health Services were also part of the Sequester cuts. And the cuts are affecting the Head Start programs.

Have you all become so twisted up in your political lives that you have forgotten the people you have been called to serve?

I think so.

Look, it's really easy --have no cap on Social Security payments --everyone pays, all the way up. Including you. Don't make me pay 25% and more on taxes while the ultra-rich pay 15%. Don't give yourself healthcare benefits and raises and then deny them to others.

Don't punish the children and the elderly and the poor and the disabled by cutting the programs that at least keep them alive at poverty levels. 
Oh, and by the way, don't sacrifice the environment for monetary gain --that will kill us all. 

I'll say it again: Don't exempt yourselves from the burden the poor must bear every day.

I can only say I am shocked and depressed by my own government. Do better than this. The people you are supposed to serve deserve better.

Shocked and depressed,
The Rev. Margaret Watson

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