Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS
Posted by Sunny Bjerk , March 01, 2013
Image from bobtheacorn.deviantart.com
By now you have certainly heard the disheartening, unbelievable, or even enraging news that no federal budget agreement was reached and the Sequestration cuts take effect today.
The Sequestration, essentially, is a fancy name for a number of uniform cuts across federal discretionary programs without a thoughtful examination of which programs could, or should, absorb less of the cuts than other programs. This means that regardless of each programs’ or departments’ budget, the number of people it serves, or frankly, the breadth of the need of the people served, most of the federal programs on the Sequester chopping block are facing a 5.1% cut, if not more.
The best way that I’ve heard it described is to imagine the federal budget as analogous to your own household’s budget. Let’s say you (or your family) are facing a huge debt, which you have to start making payments on in one year or all hell breaks lose. To help your financial situation, you want to cut your family’s spending because you think it’s gotten out of hand, while your partner or brother (or other household member) wants to raise the rent on the apartment you lease out to a well-to-do family in Brooklyn to help offset your looming debt. Both of you want to come to an agreement about how to handle your debt, but from the beginning you both realize you’re facing a stalemate. So the two of you decide that if you can’t reach an agreement by X date, you will agree to cut all of your spending by 5.1% across the board, knowing that these proposed uniform cuts are so irresponsible, so ridiculous, and so harmful for your household that it will certainly spur the both of you to sit down at the table and come to a compromise before these damaging cuts take place.
Cut to one day before X date (enter stage left). Drama has indeed ensued over the last few months, as each time you two tried to sit down at the table to try to come to an agreement, the more the two of you fought. You probably called each other names and you probably did some finger-pointing, thinking that you’re both playing a game of chicken and that the other person will eventually give in. But now, on the last day before you agree to let these ludicrous cuts take place, you’re both so over it and angry about the whole damn thing that you call it day at 4pm and let the cuts go through as you woefully planned.
So. Instead of coming together to talk about cutting spending and/or raising a few fees on that family in Brooklyn who can certainly afford it, the two of you watch together as you cut 5.1% or more across your household budget. The funding for cable TV, cut, at 5.1%. The funding for food, cut, at 5.1%. The funding for going out dancing, cut, at 5.1%. The funding for necessary medications, cut, at 5.1%. The funding for your rent, cut, at 5.1%. The funding for your monthly doctor’s visits because you’re HIV-positive, cut, at 5.1%. The funding for your online shoe shopping, cut, at 5.1%.
And as you see what you’re uniformly cutting from your household budget, and that you cut the same amount from your online shoe shopping as you did from your grocery bill, you realize and say to yourself, “Dammit. There’s a lot here we could have easily cut at a higher rate, and there’s a lot here we need and that we depend on to live healthy and productive lives. These uniform cuts that we agreed on are extremely short-sighted and very damaging.” You then come to the epiphany that you’ve not only put your foot in your mouth, but that those leather sneakers might have to start tasting pretty darn good since your food budget has been axed.
And that, dear readers, is the woeful tale of the Sequestration—a severely set of short-sighted and damaging cuts to federal discretionary programs that will take food from the millions of older adults who rely on Meals on Wheels for nutrition; housing and housing assistance from people living with HIV/AIDS (HOPWA); put the precariously housed out onto the streets; eliminate opportunities for disadvantaged school children; and put teachers out of jobs as classroom sizes balloon to offset the dearth of instructors.
While analogizing the Sequestration to a household budget is rather rudimentary, it does help illustrate the Sequestration’s uniform cuts and the lack of an examination into how these cuts will affect the country’s most vulnerable, including the homeless, people living with HIV/AIDS, older adults who are socially isolated and/or housebound, low-income families, disadvantaged students and families, and so on.
It’s incredibly shocking, frustrating, and nonplussing. Worst of all, these cuts are HERE.
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