May 02, 2013 - Issue 515 Cover Story: Sequestration - Balancing The Budget On The Backs Of The Majority - View from the Battlefield By Jamala Rogers, BC Editorial Board

In a best case scenario for a squeaking wheel getting the oil, we saw the coming together of media, the airline companies and the Congress itself. But the passage of the bill to ease the FAA’s pain happened so fast, you probably did not see it.
Last week the Congress wasted no time fixing one of the many budget cuts activated under sequestration: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cuts in air traffic personnel resulting in 1,000 daily flight delays. That’s because over 47,000 FAA employees have been forced into taking furlough days and 149 airport towers were closed.

According to an analysis of mainstream media by the Huffington Post, the sequestrations impact on FAA was mentioned far more often than the impacts on areas like Head Start or Medicare. Commerce was being stymied and the One Percenters’ mobility was definitely curtailed. The airline companies filed a suit in federal court. The rest is history.

Sequestration was the ultimate chicken game between the Republican and Democrats in Congress. When the Congressional Chuckleheads couldn’t come to agreement over debt reduction and tax increases, they all signed off on the Budget Control Act which aimed to cut domestic spending by $1 trillion over the next 10 years - $85 billion in this fiscal year alone. Since the cuts would be across the board and affecting projects of both parties, the illogical thinking was that the draconian and cavalier slashes would never happen. Wrong!
All governmental agencies face the cutbacks from defense to parks to health. The Congressional Budget Office estimates sequestration will cost around 750,000 jobs in total. Economic experts project a huge, negative impact on the economy. Once again, Congress proves that it knows nothing about job creation or economic development.
You may not necessarily care if tours of the White House have been scrapped or that certain national parks will be closed. However, the “rolling impact” as described by the Obama Administration will ultimately be catastrophic for the 99 Percenters. Head Start will lose about 70,000 of the 1 million slots for children of poor and working class families. Cancer clinics are already refusing Medicaid patients because there’s no money for pay for the expensive treatments. Vouchers for Section 8 housing and other housing subsidies are at a standstill. Senior citizens who depend on Meals on Wheels will have to look elsewhere for food but not at food pantries - they are also shutting down. Unemployment payments, emergency disaster assistance, scientific research grants, small business loans and more are all in peril.
This is just the beginning of the Congress’ austerity plan for America. And because the cuts will be slow and not affect all families in the same way, it is sure to become the new normal if we don’t aggressively fight back.
We are already seeing that potential sequestration damage is being adjusted as the ruling class experiences inconvenience or loss in profits.
Despite sequestration, nearly $5 billion was recently added to tighten U.S. borders over the next five years. This government has already spent about $18 billion on immigration enforcement this last fiscal year, more than all other law enforcement agencies combined. This includes the purchase of ten drones which cost $18 million each and $3000 an hour to operate. I’m not an investigative reporter but I’d bet that the drone contractor is a friend of a Congressperson or two.

When it became known that meat and poultry plants would be shut down and inspections limited, the meat and poultry lobbyists went into high gear. Congress passed a bill that allowed the Department of Agriculture to move funds around in the budget to cover returning inspectors to their jobs. Can’t have those One Percenters going out to dinner and not being able order their Kobe steaks!
In some cases, the sequestration has actually helped the corporate bloodsuckers. For example, two of the five offices in the labor department who are dealing with a backlog of mine-safety appeals will close and almost half of the attorneys hired to prosecute mine companies will be laid off in about a month. The big mining companies may not be held accountable for their criminal negligence that has led to death and injury of mineworkers. This action comes right in the middle of the United Mineworkers Union taking Peabody Coal to federal court for refusing to pay health care and other benefits.
Congress needs to hear from us in a powerful and organized way, demanding that they come up with a humane and balanced approach to these cuts. Tell them you know they exempted their salaries from the knife but millions of Americans will be adversely affected by the sequestration as the various agencies implement their budget decisions. Outline how you think the money for drones at the borders could be better spent. Let them know that you already anticipate there’s going to be an outcry for more money to the War on Terror coffers in the wake of the Boston bombing. Tell them that you are part of a wave of citizens engaging in democratizing government budgets so that the real needs of the majority of people are met and not a hand full of elites getting goodies at taxpayers’ expense. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Jamala Rogers, is the leader of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis and the Black Radical Congress National Organizer. Additionally, she is an Alston-Bannerman Fellow. She is the author of The Best of the Way I See It – A Chronicle of Struggle. Click here to contact Ms. Rogers.