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Camille Rivera Headshot

March 1st Has Come and Gone - Now What?

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Well, the March 1 deadline for the so-called sequestration has come and gone and we are still standing.

But don't fool yourself, while much of the pain may not be immediate, it will soon take a horrible toll on all of us -- unless you are part of the one percent that does not pay its fair share of taxes.

The White House says New York State will lose more than $275 million this year for education, job training, public health, law enforcement, environmental protection and social safety net programs. That's not just money for programs that most of us rely on -- it's also thousands of jobs.

To put it into perspective, that's $42.7 million that will be cut from our elementary and high schools, leading to worse educations and the loss of 590 teacher and aide jobs. This "sequester" also will eliminate thousands of Head Start slots, another $13 million in environmental funding, $110 million to colleges and universities -- which will certainly reduce the number of work-study opportunities -- and huge cuts affecting the unemployed, child care and even vaccines for children. As the mother of three girls, ages 17, 3, and one month old, these cuts would affect my family across the board.

The White House also says there would be 2,100 fewer food inspections in the next few weeks (can we say, "horse meat"?), nearly $1.5 million in cuts in nutrition assistance for seniors in New York, and we've already started seeing longer lines at airports because of staffing changes.

And that's probably just the good news.

The bad news is that while many programs for the poor, Social Security and Medicare might be safe for now -- though government furloughs would certainly create a backlog in getting out checks -- Congressional Republicans want to maintain the sequester at least through the end of the year. Many also want to keep cutting more and more programs that are crucial to the 99 percent, especially the most economically vulnerable, our parents and our children.

That means even more bad news is just around the corner.

If our elected officials are serious about getting a handle on the deficit, they should make sure the wealthiest among us pay their fair share. The richest one percent can afford to pay a little more in taxes, and companies like G.E. and Goldman Sachs should invest in good jobs here, as opposed to overseas.

That's a big reason UnitedNY, Make the Road NY, Flip the Debt, the Alliance for Quality Education, La Fuente, New York Communities for Change, educators and community members rallied outside the New York City Department of Education on a national day of action on Tuesday, February 20.

The goal was to highlight yet again that Goldman Sachs and other corporations avoid paying their fair share of taxes through loopholes and tax havens. The rally evolved into a march through Tribeca to Goldman Sachs' downtown office. Hiding billions in foreign profits in overseas banks, corporations like Goldman Sachs have sought solace in loopholes that keep their money with the rich, instead of putting it back into the U.S. economy.

That money could easily have helped avoid this "sequester" mess, which will cut health care and education to curb government spending. While the mega-corporations get richer, New York will lose funding for poor students, special education students, and low-performing schools.

"Big corporations like Goldman Sachs must pay their fair share. School cuts hurt, and our children deserve better," Zakiyah Ansari, a Brooklyn mother of eight and Advocacy Director for Alliance for Quality Education, told the crowd.

"As a society, if we aren't funding schools, where is this funding going," said Celia Green, a Brooklyn mother of four special needs students. "As it stands, we are already struggling to get our students up to par. We have to fund the future, which means educating our children to allow them to attend college, or learn a trade that will allow them to grow up to be functioning, positive, independent members of society."

The action was a follow-up to January's protest at General Electric's 30 Rockefeller Center headquarters. Both G.E.'s and Goldman Sachs' CEOs are board members of the Fix the Debt campaign, a corporate front group that wants to cut services for those who need them most while preserving tax loopholes for the wealthy.

The bottom line to all of this is that rather than use loopholes and off-shore tax shelters to keep getting richer while the rest of us have to struggle even harder just to make ends meet, the wealthiest get to buy more mansions, fancy cars and take luxurious vacations, while many of us can't pay our rent or keep enough food on the table for our families.

They may call it a "sequester," but to me it's just another reminder that the rich get richer while the rest of us just get screwed.