Sequester is serious business; students should stay informed, aware

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As of Tuesday, in a speech he gave to workers at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, President Barack Obama reaffirmed that he is not going to budge on his position regarding the sequester budget cuts. Not sure what the sequester budget cuts are? You’re in good company.

According to a recent poll conducted and published by Pew Research Center and the Washington Post, one in four Americans are closely following the progress of Washington’s most pressing debate. The poll was conducted on a sample group of 1,000 adults, and only 18 percent said they felt they had a good understanding of what would happen if the sequester were to take place.

So, in order to very slightly bump those numbers up, let’s break down what the sequester is. The Congressional Research Service defines sequestration as a process of automatic, largely across-the-board spending reductions to meet or enforce certain budget policy goals. This year’s sequester would force the nation to reduce $85 million in spending by the end of the fiscal year. Medicare and the Department of Defense would be main targets of budget cuts. Oh, and it’s set to take effect Friday.

Now we know what it is, but here’s why it matters: If the sequester cuts do take effect, and the defense department does have its budget cut (to the tune of 8 percent, or $46 billion), that will directly hurt all of America’s military bases. And we have one of those right next to Manhattan.

“A big percentage of our income for the Manhattan area comes from Fort Riley,” said Eric Higgins, professor of finance and head of the finance department. “The sequester could have an impact on our local economy, specifically the civilians that work there to support the fort.”

We, as a nation, are no strangers to scary terminology in regard to the country’s finances. We’ve been given terms like “debt-ceiling,” “national deficit” and “fiscal cliff,” and haven’t batted so much as an eyelash. This sequester, regardless of how much or little the word means to us, will have an effect that we will feel.

Luckily, the government is working to come up with a plan to figure this out for us with as little pain as possible, right? Well, that’s true, but the White House and Congress can’t seem to agree on how to do it. I know, right? Contain your surprise.

The Republican National Committee published a press release that essentially said that the sequester isn’t going to make up for the damage Obama has done to the national bank account. In effect, the press release breaks down Obama’s spending in comparison to what the sequester will save, coming to the conclusion that the $85 billion save is too small. Obama, on the other hand, is of the opinion that alternate spending plans and tax increases for higher-income citizens will do the trick.

As long as there’s this fighting though, neither side will get what they want, and they’re beginning to see that.

Speaker of the House John Boehner ordered Congress to “get off their ass” and pass a bill dealing with the sequester, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, admitted that the Democrats and Republicans need to work together now to find a compromise, according to an article published Tuesday by NPR. Despite this glimmer of hope, we still don’t see any movement, particularly because Obama isn’t ready to see the defense department lose that much money. I agree with him.

In his speech in Virginia, Obama proclaimed, “The sequester will weaken America’s economic recovery. It will weaken our military readiness. And it will weaken the basic services that the American people depend on every single day.”

So yeah, let’s fix this.

The upcoming deadline for the sequester remains Friday, March 1, but that date is actually the result of an earlier delay. In 2011, Obama signed the Budget Control Act, essentially a promise between the White House and Congress to find a way to deal with the national debt in an efficient amount of time. The act mandated that if no joint compromise was reached, then the sequester would force America to start saving.

Obviously we haven’t had a consensus, but if this threatening date has been avoided once, we’ll probably be able to push it back again. And if not, let’s talk about that Pew Post poll again. The majority of the nation is in the dark about this entire event happening. As citizens, we act as if governmental policies, especially those about our money, are dealt with above our heads and we have no control at all.

Congress can act so casually because they know that we won’t rush them. The 18 percent of people who do understand what’s going on isn’t enough to force the government to move. This cut will affect us, it will affect Manhattan. So we, as well as all of the other cities that support the military, should probably tell Congress what we think they should do. If not, then on Friday, or maybe some other day in the future, the community will be dealt a crippling blow.

Darrington Clark is a sophomore in journalism and digital media. Please send comments to news@kstatecollegian.com.

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