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The real impact of political chicken

Brandon Lesko
Assoc. Opinion Editor

Sequester-Cartoon1Do any of you recall the fiscal cliff dilemma that threatened the existence of mankind at the beginning of this year? Probably not.
To refresh your memories, it was basically a game of political chicken between President Obama, who proposed spending cuts, closing tax loopholes, and raising taxes on the wealthiest one percent of Americans, and congressional Republicans, who proposed cutting everything, in order to simply pay our bills and avoid racking up more debt than there are stars in the universe.
You may also recall the 2011 debt ceiling crisis where congress had to agree on whether or not to go bankrupt or increase the amount of debt we could take on as a country. Shockingly, in 2011 congress actually agreed on something! That something was to put off solving the problems that plague our economy until right now, where failure to solve those problems responsibly (by trimming $4 trillion from the deficit) would result in sequestration.
The sequester, which begins March 1 pending action by congress, is a series of deep arbitrary cuts across all sectors of government which will force about $1 trillion in cuts if congress is incapable of compromising. Let’s take a look at how that will effect the state of Pennsylvania.
When the sequester begins on March 1, these cuts will take place in this state, directly affecting not only government workers, but students and families alike. Here are the highlights: Loss of $26.4 million in funding for primary and secondary education, $21.4 million cut to funding for education of disabled students, 3,160 fewer students receiving loans for college, 2,290 fewer work-study offers, $5.7 million cut to environmental funding, 26,000 civilian Department of Defense employees furloughed to save $150.1 million, army base operation cuts of $7 million, $1.2 million cut to public health funding, and an $849,000 reduction of funds to feed the elderly.
Remind me again what country I live in?
We scoff at the drama of these political battles in Washington and say, “Well it’s just a show, they’ll knock out a deal at the last minute. It’s just for ratings.” This time, the Republicans in congress have proven that sentiment wrong. There has been ample time; two years of time to make a deal! When they couldn’t figure out what to do at the beginning of the year, they slapped a band-aid on the problem, but a band-aid can’t hold back the pressure of a hemorrhaging economy and a swollen deficit.
When the Republicans were forced to cooperate with the president, their response was, “Screw him, we’ll have no tax hikes and nothing but spending cuts.” As a result, states will be forced to lay off thousands of government workers, schools will be forced to make further cuts on top of what their states have already made, aid will not be as easy to come by for those hurting financially, and in the United States we will, for perhaps the first time, be forced to make major cuts to defense spending. I thought Republicans at least cared about guns, war, and the military?
I’d like to say that President Obama shares in the blame for what may very well be an economic disaster, but I refuse to place the blame on a man who is made the scapegoat for every failure of a congress that has done everything in its power to sabotage the American people and their president.
In this particular game, which sadly, is all the livelihood of American citizens equates to in the eyes of our elected leaders, Obama called the Republicans’ bluff; he knew they would sabotage our economy just to win a game.
If nothing is done by March, there will only be one party to blame when your Stafford loan is half the size it was, you can’t work with the school to pay for your education, your autistic nephew can no longer get the help he needs, your uncle, the police officer, is laid off, or your grandmother stops receiving dinner from “Meals on Wheels.” This is the real impact political chicken has on American citizens.