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Not often does one paraphrase Napoleon of Animal Farm, George Orwell's literary stand-in for Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, but perhaps it is fitting when it comes to sequestration: "All cuts are equal, but some cuts are more equal than others." When it comes to the core function of government--be it local, regional, state or federal, public safety is paramount. Were it not so, our preamble to the U.S. Constitution would not have mentioned it first: "insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense [and] promote the general Welfare." Sequestration, the across-the-board spending cuts set to start on March 1st, will not just jeopardize providing for the common defense but could cost us 750,000 jobs and trigger another recession. It must be stopped.
If Republicans and Democrats cannot end their game of political chicken in a few days, these cuts will kick in across the country. If ever there was a time to come together and remind ourselves that Peace Through (Economic) Strength is a virtue still embraced, it is now. Support him or not, President Obama was correct in the recent State of the Union address that "The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next." The $85 billion sequester, a concept born of the administration as part of debt ceiling compromise, was thought never to happen because of its unpopularity. Now it hangs over America like an economic sword of Damocles while the rest of us are left to wonder why brinkmanship drives our policymaking when so much important work remains undone.
Stopping sequestration means protecting jobs--and I commend Congressman Buck McKeon for his leadership on this front. Entrepreneurs, working families and small businesses are already struggling and these cuts would hurt deeply. California small businesses could lose more than $400 million in revenue, our GDP would take an $11 billion hit and we would see over 200,000 Golden State job losses. Los Angeles County is projected to have $2 billion in contract revenue losses alone. When it comes to communities like Santa Clarita Valley (and neighboring Antelope Valley) with strong ties to the military and defense contracting, the cuts translate into real jobs lost by our friends and neighbors.
There will also be other ways the sequester will affect us personally. Expect an extra hour to get through security the next time you hop on a Southwest flight or up to four hours to clear customs if you have traveled abroad. Having less air traffic controllers means later departures and arrivals, sitting on the tarmac and an increased risk of in-air incidents--all of which translate into economic losses. Medical research, breakthroughs and innovation (through National Institute of Health grants)--not to mention lives potentially lost--will suffer as labs get shut down and scientists are laid off. It would also have a corrosive effect on HIV testing, food safety and the availability of doctors accepting Medicare. Border security and first responders would be compromised, and it's estimated that over 70,000 kids will be eliminated from one of our most popular and successful government programs: Head Start.
If the Orwellian propaganda of "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength." were applied to this crisis, it would be "Sequester: In Cuts We Trust" with slogans like "Sequestration is Growth," "Cutting is Building" and "Recession is Progress." All cuts are not equal and pretending our job market and military are not disproportionately affected is mere doublespeak. Our national leaders should focus on growing the economy and not endangering our foreign affairs capabilities in the short-term--being mindful that those who rely on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security should not also bear the brunt. Let the largest cuts be made over the long-term and after much debate on national priorities--not in the 11th hour of another manufactured crisis and after political posturing that even Uncle Joe and Chairman Mao might call a bit much.