Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sequestration and the Government Shutdown

The sequestration continues to impact the well-being of US citizens through its shaping of the spending levels currently under negotiation in the House and Senate. An agreement on how to fund the government was not reached prior to midnight last night, and we now must endure a government shutdown.

While 8 in 10 Americans believe that a government shutdown is an unacceptable outcome, many members of the House are using this shutdown as leverage to repeal certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, the Senate has consistently rejected House Bills that include provisions related to the ACA. A visual representation of the negotiations between the House and Senate can be found here.

Unfortunately, the immediate impacts of a government shutdown are not directly endured by those who caused it (members of Congress and the Senate are still paid). Over 800,000 individuals will be involuntarily furloughed; services for Veterans and individuals who receive Social Security will be disrupted; national parks will be closed. These represent just a few of the consequences of government shutdown; more can be found here.

Even if the House and Senate reach an agreement, their agreement will most likely preserve the sequestration cuts. If these cuts are preserved now, there is little chance that they will be replaced with a more sensible solution within the next year.

As the sequestration began months ago, it is worth remembering that these cuts were never meant to be an ideal solution to curb spending. In fact, they were intentionally constructed as incentive to motivate the Supercommittee to agree on a more rational solution to reduce the deficit. Unfortunately for US citizens who have since lost access to housing, meals, and work, this tactic failed and the sequestration was enacted.

A recent article in the Atlantic aptly stated, “A rational political system would find a way to bring budget discipline without endangering these areas, along with food safety, homeland security, national defense, the air-traffic system, and on and on. Instead we are careening toward economic disruption triggered by outrageous demands that jeopardize the economy and endanger the most vulnerable among us. Shameful is the only way to describe it.”

Josh Gordon, policy director at the Concord Coalition, made a similar observation in a recent CNBC article, stating, “You've never come out of a recession with such dramatic deficit reductions. But very little if any of the short-term deficit reduction is in any way related to preparing for the long-term challenges. It's really bad fiscal policy."

Recent negotiations serve as an unfortunate reminder of the direct and indirect effects of the sequestration. The consequences of the government shutdown, coupled with program cuts caused by the sequestration, will even more acutely impact the welfare of our fellow citizens.

Madison Sunnquist (
Sarah Callahan
Lenny Jason

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