Vice President for Budget Policy and Economic Opportunity
Responding to highly publicized flight delays from the "sequestration" budget cuts, the House and Senate have voted overwhelmingly to allow the Transportation Department to shift some airport infrastructure funding to pay air traffic controllers. To be sure, delays in air travel inconvenience travelers and harm the economy. But many other sequestration-related cuts that receive much less attention are far more damaging.
That's why policymakers need to address sequestration as a whole, replacing it with a balanced mix of responsible spending cuts and new revenues, rather than adopt a piecemeal approach that only gets the issue off the front pages.
The many other people facing hardships because of sequestration include:
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.
Other programs will reduce enrollment or make other cuts in their programs in the coming school year that starts in September. For example, a Head Start program in Missouri just announced that nearly 200 fewer children would be enrolled next fall.
What's fundamentally wrong with sequestration is that the resulting funding levels are too low to meet government's everyday operating expenses and invest in key areas -- like infrastructure and education -- that are important for economic growth. In addition to the above cuts, local law enforcement, medical research, K-12 education, environmental protection, and many other areas also face cuts that will affect communities across the country.
The impacts of these cuts may be less obvious than cancelled or delayed flights, and many of the cuts will affect people with relatively little political clout, like low-income families. But they, too, deserve policymakers' attention.