The Growing Economic Divide Between the Haves and Have Nots

Us PovertySequestration Effects

READ NOW: Dozier’s story and 99 others from the past week who have been dramatically affected by sequestration.

As the sequester fades from the headlines and gets reduce to a mere budgetary issues, many families and individual are feeling the effects of the automatic spending cuts. The new studies are downsizing the actual problems facing this country as agencies figure out ways to avoid the more alarming effects of the $85 billion in cuts, while Congress has given up on any solution to end the sequester. The sequester was portrayed by many even our nation’s leaders to bring the country to its knees yet we go on as normally as possible. The grips of the financial crisis are now beginning to be felt and the effects are quite dramatic already with organizations and companies laying off workers and many deciding not to hire for vacant spots. The food pantries that many families rely on are closed and many health services have followed suit. Farmers are forced to go without milk production information causing alarm in the dairy industry as higher milk prices are a possibility. Workers at missile testing fields are facing job losses, federal courts are force to be closed on Fridays and public broadcasting transmitters have been shut down. On a national level, sequestration has caused the cancellation of White House tours and long lines at the airport that never happened yet at the local level has begun to sting.

The Huff Post did an extensive review of the sequestration stories from the past week and found hundreds of stories across the country that took only a few hours to find and left no one immune from the cuts. Some mentions are rural towns in Alaska, missile test sites in the Marshall Islands, military bases in Virginia, university towns across the country, and housing agencies in inner cities are all feeling the cuts.  Cathy Hoskins, executive director of Salt Lake Community Action Program that just closed a food pantry in Murray, Utah, commented: “Absolutely we’re feeling the effects of it. And our employees are trying to absorb the biggest parts of the cuts by taking furloughs and having the agency contribution to their retirement plan suspended.” Michael Jenkins, communications director of the Southeast Alaskan Regional Health Consortium, is also feeling the cuts as his group has to close the Bill Brady Healing Center that provides alcohol and drug treatment to Native Alaskans. Lashell Dozier, the executive director of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, had this to say about the effects of the sequester: “We are trying not to lay any employees off, but we will have reduced work schedules. We will also close our offices. there will be days when it is closed every month or several times a month. But if we do not come up with some type of solution or remedy by July, it will equate to 1,700 families losing housing vouchers, which is over 4,800 actual tenants.” The organization is facing $13.9 million cuts this year. Many officials are now grappling with the same issues and are using budget trickery as well as operational dexterity to avoid the pain, but the sequester is a real concern as the people and communities they serve rely on their help.

The cuts started on March 1 after Democrats and republicans could not reach a decision to address the national deficits causing the sequestration to hit at a time when poverty in the U.S. is climbing while the nation tries to recover from an economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The U.S. Census Bureau puts the numbers of American Poverty at levels not seen since President Johnson launched the War on Poverty according to the Associated Press. Currently as of January, nearly 50 million Americans which is one in six are living below the poverty line according to the bureau and 20 percent of the country’s children are poor. Under the spending cuts, Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Grazino believes his agency will have a $25 million shortfall in funds to help the poor with housing while 35,000 people are on a waiting list. Not only that, the city struggles to deal with city clean up efforts as Baltimore has 15,000 vacant and abandoned structures because of population decline over the past fifty years. While the economy tries to recover, improvements for those in deep poverty cannot keep pace with the cuts as the spending reductions hit hardest Americans not directly tied to the economy such as Head Start pre-school programs.

The cuts which also hit U.S. defense spending were put into place two years ago to help lawmakers avoid a federal debt standoff and potential shutdown, but compromise between Republicans and Democrats in Congress seemed impossible as the March 1 deadline came leading to the $85 million automatic cuts to go into effect. Democrats want deficit reduction including increase tax on wealthy, while the Republicans believe the problem could be solved through spending cuts and no more taxes. The Republicans want to see more cuts in next year’s budget resulting in a return to pre-sequester military spending levels and provide tax benefits for the wealthy. The 2014 budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan calls for $135 billion over the next decade to be slashed from food aid for low income families which helps children who have been hit hardest by poverty and calls for the Medicare health insurance program for Americans age 65 and over to turn into a voucher program providing direct government payment to senior who try to buy insurance on the private market. As Ryan said in an interview with Fox News, reports the Associated Press: “If we never balance the budget, if we keep adding deficit upon deficit we have a debt crisis like Europe has. That means seniors lose their health care benefit, that means the people in the safety net see the net cut and they go in the street. That means you have a recession. These are the things we prevent from happening by balancing the budget. Balancing the budget is but a means to an end. It’s growing the economy, it’s creating opportunity, it’s getting government to live within its means.”

 

Some worry though that the gap between rich and poor will keep widening under the austerity measures. According to the non-paritsan Congressional Research Service last year, “U.S. income distribution appears to be among the most unequal of all major industrialized countries and the United States appears to be among the nations experiencing the greatest increases in measures of income.” Marry O’ Donnell, director of community services at Cathloic Charitirs of Balitmore, has already seen an increase in income inequality during the U.S. downturn stating, “In the last three years, there’s been a great change in the kinds of people we are serving. There are increasing numbers of people who owned a home, lost their jobs, end up living in their car and are coming with children to our soup kitchen,” she said. Her organization spent $126 million the last year feeding the poor, helping the unemployed find employment and housing, running nursing homes, and helping people get on their feet. About $98 million of that money came from various programs funded by the city, state, and federal government as these programs now face cuts because politician failed to do their job in Washington and find a compromise.

 

Ron Johnson: John Boehner Would Lose Speakership If He Caves On Taxes To Avert Sequester

Ron Johnson: John Boehner Would Lose Speakership If He Caves On Taxes To Avert Sequester.

What is all this business about caving to taxes? Again whether you are republican or democrats especially elected official, shouldn’t the priority be to get the country back on its feet and out of the fire? The repercussion are enormous if nothing is done about the sequester as the United States will be worse off with more job loss and automatic spending cuts that will affect many of the government assistance programs people use on a daily basis. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told Fox News that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would lose his speakership if he agrees to new tax revenues to advert the across the board spending cuts that are set to kit in March 1. The comment has raised questions a second time about Boehner’s ability to be House Speaker in the last few months including claims during the fiscal cliff talks in December where he was accused of being more concerned about his job as speaker than making a deal. He most likely will not lose his position even with tensions in the Republican party he was still re-elected to the House Speaker position with only ten House Republicans voting against him. In the fight over sequester, Boehner in his statements has confirmed he will not accept any new tax revenues or hikes, while the president and Democrats are asking for a solution that involves spending cuts and increased revenue by closing corporate tax loopholes and implementing the Buffet rule to raise taxes on billionaires. Hey if Warren Buffet himself is asking for increase in taxes why not do it? In his own statement make Monday, Boehner remarked,”The president says we have to have another tax increase in order to avoid the sequester…Well, Mr. President, you got your tax increase. It’s time to cut spending here in Washington.”

Sequester Could Put Gun Background Checks At Risk, Officials Warn

Las Vegas Strip Shooting

Sequester Could Put Gun Background Checks At Risk, Officials Warn.

Today, I am going to talk about two related topics…gun control and gun violence since we are still talking about an issue that really doesn’t have a grey area but the government and pro second amendment supporters believe does. If the sequester happens, a direct effect of it will be background checks for people wanting to buy guns. It will actually cause more problems like the one that happened this morning in Las Vegas, where it started with a shoot out at a stoplight, then a car crash, and finally like a scene out of our favorite action movie an explosion of a cab that ended with three people dead and many injured. I cannot make this stuff up people this really did happen. Police believe it began in a hotel with an altercation that ended with six vehicles involved in the crash with the potential culprit of the explosion a propane powered taxi. This country, since the Newtown shooting that left many dead and many more questioning why no one has stepped in to alleviate the latest string of deadly violence across nations, has marred this country and raised the concern about gun laws and gun control. The worse part is yet to come if the sequester happens on March 1 according to government officials.

With no hope of a deal to avoid sequestration, the looming automatic spending cuts may become a reality leaving many Americans to brace for the worse. If Congress and the president cannot come to a solution about the $85 billion across the board spending cuts that take effect March 1 then the federal background check system for approving gun buyers could face cuts according to a letter FBI officials sent to lawmakers earlier this month. FBI director in a letter told the Senate Appropriations Committee chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) that the spending cuts would cause the agency to furlough more than 2,000 workers which would greatly effects the bureau’s ability to process and adjudicate NICS requests increasing the risk of firearms being transferred to convicted felons and other prohibited persons. In a speech Tuesday, Obama urged Congress to pass a plan that combines spending cuts and tax increases on the wealthy to avoid sequester however the Republicans refuse to raise taxes. And the Republicans wonder why their approval rating is so low…maybe because they don’t really care about 99% of the population who happen to put them into office. Hey I am not a big fan of Democrats or Republicans because let’s face it both parties have made mistakes, but the Republicans are not helping their own cause by protecting the wealthy of this country.

The demand for guns came soon after the Newtown shooting causing background checks for gun purchases to jump to record levels in December according to the FBI. In correlation with the rise in background checks, many gun owners cannot meet the demand of guns causing many to sell out of guns and ammunition. The gun background check is one of many programs that will be hit hard by the sequester if it does happen on March 1. The Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said his agency would be force to furlough nearly one third of its workers that would cause the meat industry to shut down for up to two weeks for lack of inspectors. Looking at the much larger picture, the sequester could cost the U.S. economy 750,000 jobs by some estimates and up to 1 million jobs by others. What is the government doing? Nothing. Will they do something? I hope so and I hope soon before we all crash and burn due to the inability of the government to act for the people not for themselves. I hope they prove me wrong.

 

 

 

Sequester Cuts Could Force Army To Extend Afghanistan Tours, Deploy Insufficiently Trained Troops

Sequester Cuts Could Force Army To Extend Afghanistan Tours, Deploy Insufficiently Trained Troops.

With the world financial crisis taking its toll on our neighbors across the Atlantic, the United States is struggling to keep its own economy afloat and cutting back on the military is not the way to do it. The government does not pay the men the women of our country enough to ask them to do more for our country than the country does for them. The government h made too many promises it can’t keep and doing nothing to protect its citizen or for that matter the men and women who sacrifice their lives to protect the lives of other. On Friday, General Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, said that soldiers deployed to Afghanistan next year may see their tours extended due to budget cuts that will limit training brigades to replace them. A number of combat brigades will deploy later this year and next year even as the war winds down for the U.S.

The Army right now is facing a shortfall of $8 billion in operation funding for Afghanistan, while an additional $5.4 billion in cuts if Congress cannot resolve the budget standoff and automatic reductions called a sequester goes into effect. On Friday Rep. Howard McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Service Committee, said that the sequester will go into effect March 1 that triggers $46 billion in automatic cuts to the Pentagons budget through September. “I think it’s going to happen,” McKeon told reporters. “We have just not been able to get past the politics of it to really focus in on the devastating effects.”

This week, President Obama said he would cut the size of U.S. forces roughly in half by next year as their are currently 66,000 U.S. troops in the war zone meaning 34,000 will be withdrawn by next year. In 2007, the Army extended deployments from a year to 15 months to meet the demands of the Iraq war and then President Bush. When brigades returned home however, they were ordered to deploy again 12 month later leading many leaders to worry about the forces being strained to the breaking point. Over time, the Iraq war ended and the deployment times were scaled back to a year and most are nine month long. Right now the only units scheduled to deploy are the 4th Brigade and 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, Ga. later this spring, but the Army has not announced what units will go to Afghanistan later in the summer in fall.