News and Tribune

April 17, 2013

ANDERSON: Sequestration: It isn’t just a national issue

By BARBARA ANDERSON
Local columnist

The current news on sequestration is no news. As a community and a group of people we find the discussion cumbersome, boring and plain dull. Many of us don’t know who to blame for it so it’s easier not to deal with it. How does it affect us after all? This animal called a Sequester?  

Washington seems so far away for too many of us we believe its impact will be minimal. It won’t.  

According to a White House report “Impact of March 1st Cuts on Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security: Indiana,” this is what Hoosiers can expect: 

• In Indiana alone schools will lose approximately $13.8 million dollars. That will put around 190 teachers and aides at risk of losing their jobs.

• Indiana will lose another $12.4 million in funds for education for children with disabilities.

• Work study jobs will experience cuts to the tune of 2,170 fewer jobs for low income students. 

• Head Start must cut 5 percent of its budget, which locally means the entire summer program must be cut to be able to maintain Head Start at current levels.  

• Indiana will lose $3.3 million in protections for clean air and clean water. 

• Military readiness will take a huge cut because approximately 11,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed; reducing gross pay by around $64.4 million. 

• Law enforcement and public safety will lose $262,000.

• Job search assistance will lose $683,000 —  meaning 24,290 fewer people will receive assistance. 

• Vaccines for 2,770 fewer children will be available to protect from mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, measles and hepatitis B. 

• Public health will lose $619,000 in funds that would ordinarily help upgrade response to health threats including infectious diseases; natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological events.  

• Another $1.7 million in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse will be lost — resulting in 1,100 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. 

• Nutrition assistance for seniors would lose $820,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors. 

As you read in last week’s News and Tribune in Daniel Suddeth’s article, the Housing Authority of New Albany is preparing for the same cuts. Add to that the cuts that Jeffersonville’s Housing Authority and Charlestown’s Housing Authority must make and regionally we will lose between 50-55 units of housing and support to families eligible for public housing.  We currently have 75 people at the emergency shelter, add another 50-55 families to an already struggling system and watch what happens.  

As citizens we often don’t take the time to talk to our legislators about our issues unless we feel directly hit by them. This is a direct hit that could be avoided.  

The polarization in Washington is the worst case of partisan politics I have witnessed in my lifetime. What is wrong? We have so much need, so many people and absolutely no real representation. The party line on both sides seems to be the mantra. We vote people in who are supposed to listen to their constituents, to hear their concerns and to vote based upon what they hear, not upon what they are told to do by political parties.   

It is no wonder a larger group of people are not participating in elections, they are tired, weakened and disgusted.

If our elected officials really wanted to do something they would be courageous. They would go against the grain and vote based on an informed assimilation of information, they would hold town hall meetings you could really attend and take that back to D.C.  

Tonight I watched in horror injured people terrified and frightened as they tried to escape the carnage that took place at the Boston Marathon. I had a busy day so I didn’t even know about it until after 5 p.m. When I watched all I could think about was how horrific it was, an 8-year-old died in that carnage, more than 100 injured, blood and body parts everywhere. Can we really afford cuts to defense and local law enforcement?  

Locally we have two huge events happening in the next two weeks.  Should we be frightened? I think all of us should be. 

The priority for our safety by our federally elected officials just isn’t there. If it was, this debacle called Sequestration would be over and we would start working together to solve the issues.  

Our local police, fire and military have a huge load to carry especially during the Kentucky Derby and Thunder Over Lousiville. It will need to be all hands on deck.  

As I read the jail and police logs in the News and Tribune and see the drug arrests I wonder how we will fare with reduced funding for treatment programs. As we talk about concerns from the CDC about new stages of the flu can we really afford cuts to public health?  Enough! Sometimes we just have to say enough. 

Restore some sanity.  Stop playing with people’s lives and start representing the American people as a group of lawmakers not afraid to cross the aisle no matter what side you are on. Grow some guts and take a stand. Serve your people, you are our servants. Stop pandering to your political parties and your wants and needs on all levels, nationally, locally and regionally.  

I am a patriot, a person who truly believes in government for the people, by the people, and of the people. When we start to practice that, let me know.

 

— Barbara Anderson is executive director of Haven House Services Inc.