April 29, 2013

No $$$, No Voice, No Difference

I have a multiple choice question for you, and I'd like you to choose the answer that makes the most sense from a human standpoint.

Funding to most programs in the United States has been cut by 5-8% from 2013 until 2021. You can choose to add money to one of them to ease the pain of those who use the program. Which do you choose?
  • Head Start - providing early childhood education for infants/toddlers/preschoolers/children with disabilities, nutrition, and parenting skills to low income families.
  • Meal on Wheels - providing hot meals to senior citizens who can't afford and often can't physically make meals of their own regularly.
  • Work Study for College Students - providing students with a way to gain practical work experience while paying part of their tuition and avoiding student loan debt.
  • Energy Assistance for Low Income and Elderly - providing assistance with energy bills during times of extreme heat and cold when many can't afford the higher bills. 
  • Federal Aviation Administration - providing air traffic controllers who keep airplanes moving. 
Which would you honestly choose?

Last week I was appalled at the response the FAA furloughs received, simply because people who can afford to fly in airplanes have been inconvenienced by the austerity package, better known as sequestration, imposed upon us by our government. This idiotic plan called for across the board cuts to most federal programs in March 2013. What has sickened me is that as people with money and the voice to speak up have realized the cuts will affect them, federal dollars have magically appeared to exempt programs deemed critical - FAA, TSA, meat inspectors, border patrol agents. 

Meanwhile, those who have no money and no voice, those who rely on all the other programs, are continuing to suffer the devastating cuts. Food banks are losing funding, unemployment benefits are being cut, programs for low income housing are squeezed, school meal programs are being slashed, and more. 

And don't think it all ends September 2013. It doesn't. The poor are expected to suck it up and make due until at least 2021. That's right. If you hear that sequestration ends this September, don't believe it. We're in this for another 8 to 10 years unless our government takes action. What are temporary furloughs this year will become permanent layoffs next year, meaning not only services lost, but also jobs lost and more people added to the already long unemployment rolls.

If you currently have a job, house, car, plenty of food on the table, new clothes, shoes, and can go to the movies whenever you want, good for you! You're probably thrilled the FAA is no longer experiencing furloughs. But what if all of that went away tomorrow? What if you were faced with a crisis so large that it all disappeared? Think it can't happen? Many people are a job loss or medical emergency away from becoming low income or homeless. Ask the millions of people who are now low income if they honestly thought they would be where they are today. I'll guarantee you they don't want to be there.

So if that disaster hit you and you had nowhere to turn, wouldn't you hope there would be organizations and people in the community who could help you? Without the assistance of the programs that are being cut today, you would be in serious trouble. Those of us who have voices need to speak up. We have to make phone calls and write letters to Washington to let them know that children, seniors, and poor are just as important as people who can afford to buy a plane ticket.