The sequester and what it means in the eyes of WCU experts

Christopher Cooper is Associate Professor of Political Science at Western Carolina University.

Congress did not act to prevent the reductions in projected spending, known formally as the “sequester,” from taking effect at the beginning of March.

Dr. Chris Cooper, associate professor of political science, has his concerns in the short-term, but thinks that there will eventually be a compromise on the issue of government spending.

Dr. Stephen Miller, associate professor of economics, is not worried about the sequester, despite a report released by the White House detailing the potential impacts for North Carolina and beyond.

According to the report, the President aims to protect the middle class while cutting into the staggering deficit and the impacts in North Carolina for the upcoming year look to be quite severe at first glance.

The state will lose almost $25 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting hundreds of teachers at risk of losing their jobs; over $3.5 million in cuts for protections in clear air and clean water; over 22,000 civilian Department of Defense employees will be furloughed, reducing military readiness; and dozens of other programs around the state will endure reductions in spending.

Projected nationwide impacts tell much of the same story with thousands of teacher jobs at risk, cuts to public health such as food safety and cuts to research and innovation.

President Obama gave plenty of warning in the months leading up to the March 1 deadline, repeating over and over that the sequester was nothing to take lightly.

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, even went as far as to say the sequester could make the country more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

Miller described those comments as hyperbole. He said that the cuts span across so many different areas that the sequester having that type of an impact would be highly unlikely.

Miller ultimately sees the sequester as being a small reduction in the growth of spending over the next 10 years that probably won’t accomplish much. Even though they are referred to as “cuts” and people will be effected at some point, the sequester is really just reductions of the planned increases in spending.

According to Cooper, the warnings and worries are more of a political ploy than anything else. The current problems surrounding the sequester are representative of an “incredibly polarized and divided government.”

“I think the long-term impact will be further erosion of America’s trust in the government,” said Cooper.

The White House report echoed Cooper’s concerns in some ways by prefacing all of the potential impacts with partial blame thrown at the Republican Party.

“Unfortunately, many Republicans in Congress refuse to ask the wealthy to pay a little more by closing tax loopholes so that we can protect investments that are helping grow our economy and keep our country safe. By not asking the wealthy to pay a little more, Republicans are forcing our children, seniors, troops, military families and the entire middle class to bear the burden of deficit reduction.”

The two political parties are not on the same page and the sequester might not be the definitive answer, but the spending cuts do seem to have a common focus.

Some of the country’s most susceptible citizens are targeted, from cuts to education for children with disabilities, access to head start and vaccines for children in North Carolina to cuts to small business, mental health, veterans services, AIDS/HIV treatment and homelessness programs nationwide.

Miller mentioned a ploy known as the “Washington Monument Strategy” when referring to some of these cuts. The ploy describes the political decision made by government to cut programs that are highly visible to the public instead of addressing the real issue, giving the impression that the cuts are substantial.

Overall, the sequester is an act of balancing the first step to reduce excessive government spending and deciding who will suffer as a result. The perception of the reductions will depend on differing values and the long-term impact will be seen in due time. Meanwhile, the country’s two main parties continue to play politics.


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