The White House today outlined the damage that would be done if the automatic sequester known as the fiscal cliff goes into effect on March 1, as many Republicans in Congress seem willing to let happen. The sequester threatens thousands of jobs and the economic security of the middle class, according to a White House Fact Sheet.
The list of consequences that will follow the sequester makes scary reading. They include the loss of 10,000 teacher jobs, a cut in loan guarantees for small business of $540 million, the denial of treatment to 373,000 seriously mentally adults and emotionally disturbed children, and a reduction in capacity at the FBI equivalent to 1,000 agents. FEMA would have to eliminate funding for state and local grants that support firefighter positions and emergency management personnel. Title I funding for 2,700 schools would be cut, and funds would be reduced for federal support for Meals on Wheels.
The fact sheet deals with non-defense spending, but over at the Pentagon, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been warning of the damage the cuts will do to national security, including a weakening of the national industrial base.
All this could be avoided. President Obama remains open to a grand bargain, a “big deal” to put the deficit problem behind us. He almost reached such a bargain with House Speaker John Boehner in 2012, before Boehner was undercut by the Tea Party.
In the meantime, Democrats are ready to accept a temporary fix that will ease the deficit problem until a big deal can be reached. Revenue enhancements are part of the Democrat offer. They include a limit on tax breaks for oil and gas exploration; ending the tax break for hedge fund managers, who currently pay only the capital gains tax rate of 20 percent on their income; and eliminating loopholes that help corporations send jobs overseas.
But Republicans are adamantly opposed to any discussion of added revenue. Their latest scheme is a bill being prepared by Rep. Buck McKeon that would cut the federal workforce by 10%. This is just another blunt Republican instrument that would disrupt the lives of American citizens and weaken the nation. The impact on a host of programs, from Social Security to food safety, fighting crime, national defense, and Medicare would be incalculable.
Let’s hope our own congressman, Rep. Tom Reed, will show some appetite for avoiding the disasters that would ensue from either the sequester or the McKeon bill. His constituents would be grateful.