Remember a few months ago, somewhere around the turn of the year, everybody was running around afraid of this thing called the “fiscal cliff”? Remember all the hullabaloo and ruckus about John Boehner vs President Obama and the coverage about who would budge first on the budget? Remember how the media warned us that going over this fiscal cliff would extend the recession and make us all poor forever and basically mean the end of the world as we knew it???
Yeah, I don’t either. Because I thought the Republicans and Democrats figured it out, came to a compromise, and saved the universe by reaching across the aisle in a show of bipartisan friendship. But that didn’t happen. Instead, our governing bodies made the decision to postpone the real decision until March 1st, giving them two months to mull over their decision to not make a decision when making important decisions is their primary job requirement. So now the fiscal cliff of last year has been renamed the 2013 Budget Sequestration. New name. Same consequences.
They look pretty similar, right? That’s because they are. We just moved the end of the world to the right a few pixels.
I won’t bore you with the long list of budget cuts that are set to go into effect on March 1st. I’m sure some of them are completely appropriate and necessary and will make America more awesome. But many of the cuts will significantly disrupt a number of programs that people have come to rely and depend on. For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, as well as the Mental Health Block Grant program, with together suffer a $275 million cut which could result in up to 373,000 mental health patients being forced out of treatment due to lack of resources. The CDC has claimed that it will suffer cuts that could result in 424,000 fewer HIV tests offered by state agencies. Mental Health America has also released a study based on the original fiscal cliff cuts that shows:
- More than 320,000 children will not receive coordinated mental health services, early intervention and prevention programming, and other suicide prevention services
- 11,000 fewer professionals will receive youth suicide prevention trainings
- 20,000 trauma recovery providers will lose access to evidence-based best practices and training
- 169,000 fewer individuals will be admitted into substance abuse treatment programs
- 684,000 individuals will lose critical employment and housing assistance, case management services, and school-based support
It seems like every interest group in the country has allied to stop the sequester and most organizations are opposed to any non-defense discretionary cuts. So it’s safe to say that the only people in favor of fiddling around with this sequester business are the politicians who are apparently using this legislation as political collateral against each other. Given how Washington has handled this huge, looming, ominous shadow of an issue in the not-so-distant past, I’m sure they will make a last minute decision to postpone this decision and we will all decide to forget about the whole thing until…oh, say, sometime in May. I guess I’ll see you in two months.