Top federal judges in 49 states did something highly unusual last week: they collectively sent a message to Congress. The message wasn't subtle: sequestration budget cuts, they said, were undermining the nation's justice system, jeopardizing public safety, and have the potential to cause a "devastating and long-lasting impact" on the federal courts.
Conditions are arguably worse for scientific and medical researchers dependent on grants, and Sam Stein explained in great detail last week how the sequester has become "a cancerous tumor inside the world of science." Stein talked to one scientist at the University of Virginia who said, simply, "We are in deep s**t."
The New York Times reports today that five months into sequestration, "much of the United States government is grounded." At this year's National Space Symposium in Colorado, for example, representatives from France, Germany, and China made the trip -- but no one from NASA could be there because the agency couldn't afford to send anyone.
And then there are the effects on children.
Head Start programs across the country eliminated services for 57,000 children in the coming school year to balance budgets diminished by the federal sequester, cutting 1.3 million days from Head Start center calendars and laying off or reducing pay for more than 18,000 employees, according to federal government data scheduled for release Monday. [...]
Most programs did completely cut services to some children. The sequester "also impacted how many staff kept their jobs, how many dental screenings and health screenings are available and what happens to those families as we go into a new school year," the official said.
There's just no reason for the United States to do this to ourselves on purpose. It's a slow-motion disaster on auto-pilot that could be stopped easily, if only Congress would flip a switch and turn the darn thing off.
To reiterate a point from a few weeks ago, let's not forget that sequestration cuts have been condemned by House Republicans and they've been condemned by Senate Republicans. The cuts are hurting the economy, and by some accounts, they're hurting our national security.
So maybe GOP lawmakers will agree to end this madness? According to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), he's open to the possibility, just so long as President Obama cuts Social Security and Medicare.
In other words, we're once again looking at extortion politics at its most ridiculous -- either the White House cuts social-insurance programs to Republicans' satisfaction, or Republicans will continue to embrace a policy that deliberately hurts the country.
And Cantor sees this as responsible because, in his mind, the deficit that's shrinking is actually "growing."
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