Sequestration continues to do real harm to real people

Updated
Education Secretary Arne Duncan and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a Head Start program in Maryland in March.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a Head Start program in Maryland in March.
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There’s an unfortunate correlation between the political world’s focus on sequestration cuts and the scope of the damage done by the cuts themselves – the more the sequester hurts people, the less attention it receives. The political world’s interest in sequestration was great in February and March, when the effects of the policy were minimal, but that interest faded when the damage started kicking in.

Adding insult to injury, the political world took notice of the policy again briefly in April, but only because people with political capital – air travelers – started feeling the pinch. In a matter of days, Congress provided a fix, and the sequester was quickly forgotten all over again.

Brad Plumer takes stock of the overlooked story this morning.

So it’s worth asking: Whatever happened to the sequester? Is it still a big deal? We decided to check in on what was going on around the country. As it turns out, plenty of people have started to notice – about 37 percent in a May 19 poll said they’d been personally affected. And the sequester is starting to have an impact around the country, although many of the cuts haven’t yet sunk in. Here’s a round-up:

An ABC News/Washington Post poll in May found that 37 percent of Americans say they’ve been negatively affected, up from 25 percent in March. And 18 percent say they’ve felt a “major impact.” … And what sorts of impacts is sequestration actually having?

Plumer’s list isn’t short, highlighting Head Start programs that are kicking out preschoolers, federal courts facing new backlogs, housing programs that are starting to deny aid to low-income families, national parks that are scaling back services, military families feeling adverse effects, federal agencies beginning mass furloughs, cancer clinics turning away patients, and states that are paring back unemployment benefits.

The policy was designed to hurt people and it’s working as intended.

The Washington Post ran a feature piece today on Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who already recently got an earful on this.

Earlier this month, a friend and former campaign volunteer stood up at one of the town hall meetings to tell Mulvaney that the defense cuts had cost him his job of five years with a large defense contractor. “I just want you to know that these cuts are real and they hurt me,” said Jeffrey Betsch, a single father of three daughters, who was on the verge of being evicted from his home.

All of this undermines the economy and none of this is necessary. Even the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee recently called the sequestration policy “idiotic.”

But it continues anyway, doing deliberate harm, because congressional Republicans will neither compromise nor turn it off.

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Sequestration continues to do real harm to real people

Updated