Wednesday, February 20, 2013

So Much For No Sequestration

I didn't know what the word "sequestration" meant until recently; in case you don't know, it's a term that refers to the making of general, broad-sweeping cuts in government spending due to budget shortfall.  

During the final 2012 Presidential debate, Obama was asked about the budget sequester, and he said, "It will not happen."

Unfortunately, though, it is happening.  Funding for categories of things in the budget are being cut and/or put on hold indefinitely, including Head Start education programs, food inspection, and medical research.  Instead of looking at items in the budget individually to see where cuts can be made without causing long-term, wide-spread harm, with a sequestration, entire categories are being stricken from the budget.  To me, making cuts in this way seems haphazard, short-sighted, and scary.  Maybe careless, lazy, and desperate too.  Actually, there is a one-word descriptor to describe the "plan" that was used by columnist Robert McCartney in an article today in the Washington Post that I think is spot-on:  Dumb.  


Some of the areas in which these crazy cuts are projected to be made seem like a gamble; maybe, just maybe, things will turn out ok despite the loss of funding.  One area, though, in which cutting support in such an extreme fashion is literally a matter of life and death is medical research.  As the article above says, $1.6 billion is slated to be cut from the budget of the National Institutes of Health, which is already underfunded.  "NIH grants pay for most of the basic research in universities and laboratories across the country, [which] has led to practically every major U.S. medical breakthrough since World War II," McCartney reports.  

I read a lot about research in the areas of cancer and other diseases, and lately more and more often I've been seeing information about how we are so close to figuring out a cure for many of them.  Not just a treatment - a cure!  Obviously, without funding, this research will be put on hold or even shut down, and that swings the making of these cuts over into the category of being downright immoral, in my opinion.  

I wonder if the members of Congress and the President actually recognize what will happen; I wonder if they have thought about the implications of the cessation of medical research, either in broad terms or in a personal sense.  I doubt any of them have lived their lives without being touched in some way by cancer; maybe they should sit and talk for awhile to someone they know who is fighting or who has fought it, or maybe they should look at a photo of someone they've known personally who has lost their life to the disease, just to be sure they realize what they are doing with such over-zealous use of their red pens.

I realize it's challenging to figure out where spending cuts should occur when there is a budget deficit, but I'm pretty sure nobody has ever told the members of Congress or the President that their jobs would be carefree or easy.  There are difficult decisions ahead for them to make, for sure, but trying to solve the problems by simply indiscriminately slashing entire categories is just plain - and here's one more word to describe the whole thing - cowardly - and they should be ashamed.

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