HEAR that? It’s the sound of sequestration? Or rather the quieter sound of sequestration.
In this most festive week of summer, the Navy’s flight exhibition team is not roaring over the Seattle area, rattling windows on both sides of Lake Washington in preparation for its performances this Seafair Weekend.
In its place is the Patriots Jet Team, a nonprofit, all-volunteer team based in California. By reputation, no doubt the Patriots will put on a good show. Still, they are not the Blue Angels, and the Czech-built L-39s the Patriots fly do not compare with the Angels’ roaring F/A-18 Hornets. In a Boeing town, people notice these things.
The Angels’ are absent because of sequestration, the automatic cuts in federal spending that began March 1. Keeping them out of Seattle saves only a small amount. The importance is that people will notice, while many other sequestration effects are not so obvious, but have more import.
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Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee said sequestration-caused furloughs have amounted to a 20 percent pay cut for nearly 10,000 civilian-defense workers at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM), Fairchild Air Force Base and other sites in Washington.
Speaking on a Thursday last month, Murray said that because Friday is furlough day at JBLM, “The 911 call center and fire departments will be understaffed. Airfields will be shuttered except for emergencies. The military-personnel office and the substance-abuse center will be closed. The Madigan Army Medical Center will be forced to close clinics. Even the Wound Care Clinic will be understaffed.”
Does it make sense to shortchange the Wound Care Clinic? No.
At the national parks, sequestration has meant a 5 percent cut. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said in a Senate committee hearing that closures of campgrounds and restrooms have already discouraged visitors and hurt park-dependent communities such as Port Angeles and Eatonville.
Under sequestration, all sorts of things are being shortchanged, from meals for sick and homebound seniors to the scientific stations monitoring volcanoes in Alaska. The distribution of pain makes no sense.
None of this is to deny the problem of deficits, debt and overspending, which is real. The Obama administration needs to agree to entitlement cuts, and the Republican-controlled House needs to agree to more cuts in military spending. But sequestration was envisioned from the start as a punishment for being bullheaded, not as a solution.
Experience now bears this out.