The Sequester and the Local Impact

After months of reading about the horrors of sequestration, most folks didn’t even blink when President Obama signed the document ordering the cuts beginning March 1, 2013. Call it “sequestration fatigue,” but the hype leading up to the date was akin to the expectation of all computers crashing on Y2K.

The sequester was part of a compromise negotiated in 2011—by a divided legislative committee—to raise the debt ceiling. The Budget Control Act of 2011 included the sequester, intending it to act as a poison pill and encourage Democrats and Republicans to compromise. If the legislators could not pass their own reduced budget or raise the debt ceiling, then cuts would automatically take place for a saving of $1.5 trillion over 10 years, beginning March 2013.

While I have heard some pundits call the 2.3 percent reduction in Federal government spending “budget dust,” the cuts target certain departments and programs and leaves others alone. Medicare (recipients, not doctors), Social Security and other mandatory programs are exempted from the cuts. After removing all the exempted categories, including the salaries of legislators, the cuts run deeper among the remaining departments.

A February 2012 Congressional Budget Office report outlines the various cuts that the sequester enacts. For example, discretionary defense cuts will total $42.7 billion, a 7.9 percent reduction, while nondefense discretionary cuts of $28.7 billion equates to a 5.3 percent reduction. Already House Republicans are tinkering with the defense cuts, giving the Defense Department some latitude on where the cuts would occur. 

The Washington Post has asked for personal stories on how the sequestration is affecting citizens. A mix of stories can be found on the newspaper’s website http://www.washingtonpost.com/grid/national/sequestration/.  Some Federal employees are sharing that they have already lost their job, while other folks are saying, “tough luck, the budget was bloated.” 

What are the impacts in Santa Clara County? Personally, I know of one person who was laid off from a small business that contracted with the Federal government. The entire company shut down in January 2013 in anticipation of the sequester—20 other people lost their jobs.  The nonprofit I direct, Bill Wilson Center, has lost $40,000 to date and more is anticipated. We have frozen any new hiring until we learn more about the cuts. 

A recent email from the Chair of the Santa Clara County Collaborative on Affordable Housing and Homeless Issues discusses the anticipated cuts to services for the homeless and to affordable housing. Up to 800 low-income families could lose their housing and urban development (HUD) vouchers that currently subsidize rental payments. As a result, many could end up homeless. 

California will lose millions that filters down to residents. Education, criminal justice, clean air and water, food safety, defense, and unemployment benefits are among the services that will receive cuts.

It is hard to imagine that everyday citizens will not feel these cuts. I guess we will see after the “budget dust” settles.

Sparky Harlan, Executive Director/CEO at Bill Wilson Center, is a nationally recognized advocate for youth in foster care and in the juvenile justice system, as well as homeless and runaway youth.

Sparky Harlan, Executive Director/CEO at Bill Wilson Center, is a nationally recognized advocate for youth in foster care and in the juvenile justice system, as well as homeless and runaway youth.

9 Comments

  1. > California will lose millions that filters down to residents. Education, criminal justice, clean air and water, food safety, defense, and unemployment benefits are among the services that will receive cuts.

    What’s the difference between “filter down” and “trickle down”?

    If the benefits of tax cuts don’t “trickle down”, why should anyone worry that government spending cuts will “filter down”.

    Go back to your homes.  Nothing more to see here.

  2. How much are you cutting your salary in anticipation?  Being a non-profit has it’s risks, as you can see… it’s dependent on charity and good-will of government. 

    Apparently our society has decided that your service is not worth the expense.  Perhaps you guys can get jobs at the Children’s Shelter?  Oops, no- kind of burned those bridges over the years huh.  Yeah, I guess being an advocate has risks too.

  3. Google sequestration and education funding, and you’ll see that the biggest impact will be on funding for special education students.

    Thank you Sparky for your article.

  4. That slick talking charlatan in the photo at the top of the article- the guy angrily scolding and jabbing his finger in America’s face- is nothing more than a drug pusher. He’s pissed off because somebody’s been messing with his supply lines connecting him with his customers in the ‘hoods across the country. Millions upon millions of people including his regional distributors like Ms. Harlan, have become addicted to federal funds over the last couple of decades. They’re terrified at the notion of being cut off from their supplier. Like any addict they just can’t imagine living life without that regular infusion of federal funds. And like any addict they’re in denial about why their lives are so dysfunctional and in a constant state of turmoil.
    They clearly need our help in breaking the cycle of dependency. This sequestration of the substance that has been controlling their lives may seem harsh but it is the compassionate thing to do. They will go through a painful period of withdrawal. Some may never recover. Many may return to their home countries. But most will finally discover that they do have the ability to stand on their own and will go on to lead responsible productive lives.
    But I do have sympathy for Sparky’s plight. More people with more self respect means fewer unwanted children. In the long run the current boom in the foster child industry will be curtailed.

  5. “That slick talking charlatan in the photo at the top of the article- the guy angrily scolding and jabbing his finger in America’s face- is nothing more than a drug pusher. He’s pissed off because somebody’s been messing with his supply lines connecting him with his customers in the ‘hoods across the country.”

    You seem to have forgotten the Bush era. The “charlatan” you are calling a “drug pusher” took on a HUGE mess when he took over the office. A HUGE mess that GW Bush created. He did what he had to do to get the country moving again. Stocks are now at an all time high and the housing market is coming back. Tesla is making a profit and will be able to pay back their loan in full. He kept General Motors from going under, when the Obstructionists wanted to let them sink. GM is doing well. We have taken on a lot of debt, that is for certain…yet you still fault him even when the country is doing so much better than we were when we started flatlining. How soon you forget. But then again, you ARE on the side of the Obstructionists, so I wouldn’t expect anything different from you. That is the goal of the Obstructionists; to fault everything this president tries to do. Things could be so much worse. Don’t forget that.

    • Oh, baloney.

      The Bush “mess” was really the Clinton era Community Reinvestment Act mess wherein Clinton cronies at FANNIE and FREDDIE and Janet Reno ordered banks to lend gobs of money to people who were never going to be able to pay back the loans.

      It was pure Keynesian socialist economic crackpot lunacy.

      (The banks may have been complicit because FANNIE and FREDDIE winked at them and told them they were “too big to fail”.  The Obama bailout proves the banks were right, though: they WERE too big to fail, and Obama likes it that way.).

      Blame Obama.  Blame Obama.  Blame Obama.