For two months now, Congress has ignored reports about how the sequester is causing kids to be kicked off Head Start and seniors to lose their Meals on Wheels services. But after just a few days of reports that passengers had to wait longer before boarding their flights, Congress rushed to pass a last minute fix for the Federal Aviation Administration. Now, the Pentagon is clamoring for its fix. Before Congress hurries to save yet another agency with a well-funded special interest group supporting it, we must ask, what are they doing about our kids getting tossed out of classrooms?
The sequester doesn’t just impact passengers on the tarmac, but has ramifications throughout the nation. Just yesterday, the Federal Reserve hinted that our fiscal policy of cuts-cuts-cuts is restraining economic growth. Other economists fear that the sequester is dragging down our economy. While Congress seems open to more flexibility as a way to solve the sequester, economists have laid out very clearly why shifting funds around does not stop its impact. The right response to this would be for Congress to stop the entire sequester immediately. But it has been either unwilling or unable to muster the political will to do so.
Congress’ failure is hurting everyone. Take, for example, our children. Because of the sequester, 70,000 children are being kicked off Head Start, a critical program providing low-income preschoolers with education, health, nutrition, and family-support services. Another 1.2 million disadvantaged students will see the funds eliminated for over 2,700 schools. Low-income families will also lose a total of $115 million in child care subsidies. These are subsidies that enable low-income families to take care of their children and work to make ends meet.
Although politicians like Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) are clamoring for more sequestration, the reports are coming in and it’s our children that are losing out. Even if we looked only at Head Start, we’ll see how the youngest are bearing the burden of sequestration:
• In Indiana, at least two Head Start programs are conducting random drawings to determine which kids to drop. A total of 1,000 kids are estimated to be kicked off the program statewide.• In Alton, Illinois, 2,000 children will have their school year shortened by two whole weeks.• In Fostoria, Ohio, more than 1,100 children will have their school week cut by a week.• In Seveille, Florida, 977 children will have their school year shortened by two weeks.• In Forrest County, Missouri, 812 young children will have their school year cut by five to ten days.• In Palm Beach Country, Florida, 2,300 low-income children will lose their bus service, forcing them to find other ways to get to pre-school.
It is unacceptable that our most needy children are bearing such a large brunt of the sequester. In total, the sequester is cutting:
• $633 million to special education programs, • $400 million to Head Start, • $725 million to Title I education funding, • $503 million to Children and Families Services Programs,• $115 million to Child Care and Development Grants, • $157 million to federal student financial assistance and aid administration, • $20 million to Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs, and• $65 million in aid to schools on Indian lands and military bases.
These are not all the programs affecting our children, but even these amount to a total of $2.6 billion in cuts to our nation’s youngest, most vulnerable Americans.
While our children are getting the short end of the stick and feeling what $2.6 billion in cuts mean, the median pay for the top 200 CEOs rose to $14.5 million in 2011. These millionaires and billionaires can surely afford to share some of the burden facing other Americans. Some of these ideas are suggested in the president’s budget:
• Implementing the Buffet rule and making millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share would provide $5.3 billion in revenue in 2014 alone. • Ending tax breaks for oil, gas, and coal companies would give us $4 billion.• Ending sweetheart accounting rules for corporate inventory would result in $3.5 billion. • Making hedge fund managers pay the same tax rates as the rest of us would give us $3.4 billion. • Getting rid of the special tax break for derivatives traders would yield $2.4 billion.• Ending corporate jet subsidies for jet owners would give us $65 million. • Eliminating tax breaks for golf courses would yield us a cool $37 million.
The bottom line is this: there is a way to end the sequester. But what are the priorities of our elected leaders?