The partial government shutdown for 16 days caused some Americans to lose hope in our democratic way of life. If our elected officials can't get along, what does that say about how the normal citizen can get along with their neighbors? If we can't take care of ourselves and the basic functions of daily living, how can we even expect that we can take care of others?
Why is it acceptable to hurt so many people, most of who do not deserve it? Even though Congress postponed the inevitable with the recent passage of the funding of the government and raising the debt ceiling, both issues were just kicking the can down the road until January 15, 2014 for the budget and February 7, 2014 for the debt ceiling. Through all of this, the country forgot about the sequestration that started on March 1, 2013. As reported in the Washington Post, the impact of this sequester has become very harsh to those in our society in the most need. During this fiscal year, the effect on domestic programs is quite severe. Head Start will be cutting an additional 177,000 children from their program which helps young children from low-income families develop. President Johnson started this program as part of his War on Poverty back in 1965. Since then 30 million children have participated. In addition to the suffering we are inflicting on Head Start, 1.3 million fewer students will receive Title I education assistance, which distributes funding to schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families. This is another program that came out President Johnson's War on Poverty and was renewed with President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" Act in 2001. On top of all of this we are inflicting on our children, there will be 9,000 fewer special education staff in our classrooms and $291 million less for child-care subsidies for working families.
This no action on the sequestration not only affects kids, it is affecting other parts of our society. 760,000 fewer households will receive less heating and cooling assistance under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. $2 billion less is being sent to the National Institutes of Health which corresponds with 1,300 fewer research grants. And it goes on and on with what we are not doing.
We are approaching another holiday season, but it sure does not feel too festive after living through these 16 days of dysfunction. But the spirit of America seems to be alive even though our leaders can't get along. The boots on the ground Americans are rising above the fray in Washington D.C. to help those who need help. WGGB in Springfield, MA reports the "Coats for Kids" campaign has begun to collect gently used coats to help families in need. The Salvation Army has been doing this campaign to help those who need it most for 33 years. WKRC in Cincinnati reports how local law enforcement officers are getting child seats into the hands of those who cannot afford them so all children will be safer on the roads of Southwest Ohio. The Coshocton Tribune reports about the "Rags to Riches Clothing Drive" where Ridgewood Elementary has taken the lead in helping to collect clothes for the underprivileged children in their town in Ohio.
Helping others who are struggling is a core American value that in every town across America has to get stronger with the lack of leadership out of Washington. Volunteering is great, but we are at a point that people will not survive unless all of us step in to help financially. We have all seen an image of the Great Depression in the 1930's where America looked like a third world country and none of us have the desire to see that again in 2014. Most communities have The Salvation Army and The United Way where you can donate locally. Nationally the Children's Defense Fund and Kids in Distressed Situations help get the funds where they are most needed. And at DollarDays on our Facebook page, we are giving away $5,000 in products to families in need.
NBC reported that 950 miles west of Capitol Hill, Marion, Iowa mothers have stepped in to help low income mothers who depend on the federally funded nutrition program for women, infants and children (WIC). They are handing out baby food, formula and cereal to those who used to rely on the government to help them. This scene needs to repeat itself in every city and town across America. We have to take care of each other now, because with the current chaos in Washington, we can't count on our government to take care of those most in need.