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Sequestration continues to take its toll

Inside the Beltway, there's an assumption that the sequester was a dud and that President Obama "cried wolf" when warned of damaging consequences. Outside the
President Obama at a Head Start center
President Obama at a Head Start center

Inside the Beltway, there's an assumption that the sequester was a dud and that President Obama "cried wolf" when warned of damaging consequences. Outside the Beltway, the sequestration policy continues to take a real toll on the lives of real people.

At least two Indiana Head Start programs have resorted to a random drawing to determine which three-dozen preschool students will be removed from the education program for low-income families, a move officials said was necessary to limit the impact of mandatory across-the-board federal spending cuts.Programs in Columbus and Franklin are losing two classrooms, meaning 36 children won't be able to return after Friday.

This may not be as endlessly fascinating as the (cue scary music) cancelation of White House tours, but for those kids and their families, the argument that "no one noticed" the effects of sequestration clearly isn't true.

And before anyone says, "But it's just three dozen kids," let's not forget, it's not just three dozen kids. As we talked about yesterday, the sequester will also force furloughs for those who help keep Americans' food supply safe, will deny tuition assistance to military veterans, will cause real hardship on low-income Americans who rely on housing assistance, and on and on.

If Republicans in Congress want to end this national fiasco, they can. For now, however, they seem more interested in "sequestration NIMBYism."

Sequestration is intended to be indiscriminate. It requires federal agencies to reduce spending by a certain percentage on each of their programs and activities.That means all House and Senate members are likely to see some consequences in their districts and states. But when those consequences materialize, Republicans either blame the administration or plead for special treatment.

Responding yesterday to yet another question about canceled White House tours -- the political establishment clearly has its own unique set of priorities, press secretary Jay Carney offered a worthwhile perspective.

"In upstate New York, I know there's concern because an airport control tower is being shut down because of the need to reduce spending by the FAA, and I know there's concern about this. This is a quote -- 'Our military trains' -- this is Griffiss International Airport's control tower in Rome, New York. 'Our military trains at Griffiss. The airport offers some of the most unique infrastructure in the Northeastern United States. And during Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Sandy, it was Griffiss International Airport that served as a staging area for relief efforts. It is short-sighted and unnecessary to close this control tower. And I implore the FAA to remove it from the closure list.' And this is a result of sequester and that is a quote from Republican Congressman Richard Hanna.Similarly, Blake Farenthold, from the Gulf Coast of Texas, talks about the civilian employees of Corpus Christi Army Depot and Naval Air Station could be -- and this is a quote -- 'furloughed for up to 22 days. Our local airport towers in Corpus Christi and Victoria might also face extreme cuts.' And again, that's a Republican member of Congress expressing that concern."And they're right. And there are real impacts out there. And it's an unfortunate result of the arbitrary, across-the-board nature of the sequester cuts. That was the -- I use this term facetiously -- the genius in the design of the sequester -- it was written in a way to make it terrible. That was the purpose. Republicans and Democrats alike wrote it that way so that it would be so onerous that it would compel Congress to take alternative action to reduce our deficit in a more responsible way."Unfortunately, that didn't happen. And unfortunately, Republicans in Congress made the choice not to postpone the implementation of the sequester as they just did on January 1st for two months, to do it again so that kids would be allowed to go on tours, control towers wouldn't close, various people wouldn't be furloughed or laid off."