Sunday, March 3, 2013

Policy Spotlight: Sequestration

In recent weeks we've been hearing the term 'sequestration' a lot. With the buzz of the recent election subsiding, the fiscal cliff and governmental divide have the American people piquing their ears to some unsettling policy news. So what is the sequester? Why is it happening? And what does it mean for the American people?

It's a wordy term with a complicated and ominous meaning. Simply put, sequestration is Congress' solution to our countries growing national debt (it stands at over $16 trillion today!). Put into effect at 11:59pm on March 1, 2013, the sequester will cut $1.2 trillion dollars from the federal budget over a 10-year time period. The cuts will be split 50-50 between defense and domestic discretionary spending (these include healthcare, education, law enforcement, disaster relief, unemployment benefits, non-profit organizations and the sciences).

I know, it's a hard pill to swallow but now its time to wonder why this is even happening.
The sequester was originally passed as a part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which raised America's debt ceiling and provided an incentive for the appointed 'Super Committee' to come up with a more comprehensive and sensible budget plan. Believing the sequester to be enough of a threat for the Committee to come to an agreement it was a shock when they were unable to reach a deal by the end of the year. The cuts aimed to go into effect Jan. 1, 2013, but Congress came to a last-minute decision to delay the sequester until March 1st so as not to coincide with the end of Bush-era tax cuts, an amalgamation of policies referred to as the 'Fiscal Cliff'.

So what now? How is this going to effect the American people?
Programs such as Social Security, public assistance (TANF) and food stamps (SNAP) have been able to avert sequester cuts. But programs such as federal housing, Woman and Infant Care and and Medicare are vulnerable to the governments wielded axe. Federal employees may face unemployment and school programs such as Head Start may also see dramatic cuts. The hard truth is that many of these cuts will affect low-income families more than Congress thinks. Tax hikes are inevitable and without a comprehensive tax-rate the pressure of the sequester may prove to be too much for both our society and our economy. 

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