We are one week into the long anticipated witching hour in the United States. It had been talked about for weeks now yet no one seemed to believe that it would really happen, but it did. The government sequestration has gone into effect but what does that really mean? In between fears of the Snowquester storm, Washington appears to be functioning as (ab)normally as it did leading up to this mess. What does the sequestration mean for us as a country and as individuals? Does it effect us differently if we are employed in the private sector versus the public one or if we are students or unemployed? Will some areas of the country be effected more than others? Is it possible that some people will escape unscathed from this national embarrassment?
Anticipating the worst, the Department of Defense got ahead of the game and set about trimming their expenses before the sequestration actually happened. The deployment of the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman strike group and her thousands of personnel was cancelled hours before setting sail, planes have been grounded, and contracts for ship and aircraft repairs were immediately recalled. Yesterday it was revealed that the U.S. Army will begin cutting tuition assistance for its soldiers and notices are circulating alerting military families about reduced hours at military hospitals, commissaries, and even DOD operated schools. Federal employees and contractors across all branches of the government are on notice for furloughs that could reduce annual take home pay by up to 20% of their salaries. This includes border patrol agents whose presence along our borders would be drastically diminished and the TSA agents who provide security screenings at the nation's airports. If you think the lines are long and cumbersome now, imagine what they will be like with lower staffing levels. The high profile and always popular White House tours have been cancelled until further notice and notifications have been sent out about reductions in monthly unemployment insurance checks.
The broad swath of reductions makes it appear that no segment of the American population will be immune to the effects of sequestration. So if every American is or will soon be feeling the effects of Washington's inaction, what are we all going to do about it? Are we going to sit back and let the status quo ride? After all, this is what Congress seemed to do in the weeks and months leading up to the 1st of March. As voters are we going to call our elected officials telling them how we are being personally effected by the sequestration and demand that they do something about the stalemate? Regardless of the outcome are we going to remember this come November and every November that follows? Or will we fall along our voting party lines and blame the other side while reelecting our incumbent candidates? As a voting public do we share in the blame with our Congressmen and women?
But at the end of the day, does fault really matter? I think not; we should be more concerned about what type of message these (in)actions are sending to the rest of the world. If the United States, a world leader that has traditionally served as a role model for democracy and good government, can't pass important legislation and agree on a budget, who are we to expect the same from other countries? What are notifications about a reduction in national security and a smaller international military footprint saying to the rest of the world? Instead of laying blame, what the most important thing for us to do right now is to bring this financial fiasco to an end sooner rather than later.