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What Does Sequester Really Mean?


Location: Washington, DC

First, I believe that we must avoid these dangerous across the board cuts that will seriously hurt the Middle Class, and put in danger all of the progress that our economy has made over the past few years. It is true that additional cuts will be necessary, as well as additional revenues through tax reform, but the sequestration would cut the good with the bad, the efficient and the inefficient alike, and all at once. This is a very poor strategy for deficit reduction. Let's not forget that the cuts we have made already will reduce federal government discretionary spending by $1.5 trillion over 10 years -- the lowest level of federal spending as a share of the economy since the early 1970's.

Second, we should replace the sequester with a balanced approach that combines targeted cuts that won't single out the Middle Class, seniors, studentsand our economic recovery, with additional revenues that will come from eliminating special interest tax loopholes or adopting some form of the "Buffet Rule." And we should phase in such an approach, so that we do not bring about a harsh austerity budget that could put us into another recession.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, allowing the sequestration to go into effect would cut economic growth this year by half, and another study showed that our economy could expect to lose 2.14 million jobs, nearly half of which would come from small businesses. These cuts cannot be allowed to happen when common sense dictates that we adopt a balanced, long-term plan for our budget and put an end to these man-made economic catastrophes.

Cuts to early childhood education are just the tip of the iceberg. The Office of Management and Budget recently identified some of the other indiscriminate actions that would result from the sequester:

K-12 Education: We must give our students and job seekers every advantage. Sequestration would slash funding to schools throughout the nation by $750 million, which could eliminate more than 10,500 jobs of teachers and aides. Additionally, up to 70,000 children would lose access to Head Start and Early Head Start causing up to 30,000 working parents to lose child care services.

Public Safety: Under sequestration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection would also have to lay off more than 7,000 officers and agents, increasing wait times at our nation's busiest airports. The Department of Justice would also be forced lay off approximately1,000 federal agents and 1,300 Bureau of Prisons correctional officers.

Defense: The Defense Department will need to share in the reductions, but we must do this in a smart way -- targeting waste, fraud and abuse, and programs that are no longer necessary. Under sequestration, the Pentagon will reduce all non-field operating budgets by more than 20 percent and cut $3 billion from defense health programs. Targeting hard-earned benefits is not the way to cut military spending.

Health Care: More than $1.6 billion would be cut from medical research grants through the National Institutes for Health, meaning fewer and smaller research projects aimed at finding treatments and cures for diseases like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's. Community health centers would serve 900,000 fewer patients as a result of cuts of $120 million, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would provide 540,000 fewer doses of vaccines against diseases like hepatitis, flu, measles, and whooping cough for children and adults.

I'm concerned about these cuts and I'm also deeply distressed by the perpetual dysfunction in Washington that has made these crises a routine. Please let me know what you think. The actions we take over the next year to eliminate our deficit and debt will have lasting repercussions and I would value your input.

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