On Friday, President Obama ordered broad cuts in government spending, commonly referred to as the sequester. This decision came shortly after Democrats and Republicans failed to agree on an alternative resolution to address the budget deficit and the $16 trillion national debt. Fifty percent of the cuts will fall on the military and the other 50% will fall on domestic programs.
Obama hoped to close the fiscal gap with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases; however, Republicans have firmly opposed further tax increases and cuts to military spending. The White House and Congress maintain authority to cancel or replace the sequester cuts; however, it seems unlikely that an alternative plan, possibly incorporating tax increases, will appear anytime soon.
Naturally, everyone is wondering when Americans will start experiencing the effects of these tremendous cuts and who will be affected most. It seems that no one is off limits; however, there has been much discussion regarding the effects on women, children, and government employees. An article recently published by Jezebel emphasized the impact of the sequester on women’s health care. For example, funding for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention will be slashed by $350 million. It is estimated that the cut will result in 25,000 fewer breast and cervical cancer screenings and 540,000 fewer vaccines for children. In addition, the Department of Justice will experience a $1.6 billion cut, $20 million of which will be taken from Violence Against Women funding.
Perhaps the heaviest burden shall be placed on public sector workers, of whom 57% are women. Government employees have already been dealing with severe setbacks. Since 2009, the public sector has lost 721,000 jobs, 63% of which belonged to women. Under the sequester, programs such as Medicare and Social Security will maintain consistent funding. As a result, a heavy burden will fall on federal government employees rather than direct recipients of aid. The U.S. government currently employs 2.7 million people across the country. If the cuts continue, it is projected that 800,000 workers will experience reduced workdays and smaller paychecks.
While media tends to emphasize the impacts on different groups (women, children, etc.), it is clear that all groups will suffer from severe spending cuts on domestic programs. No one is safe. The projected impacts prove that congressional Republicans and Democrats must continue to search for an alternative solution. As always, compromise on both sides is essential.