Compiled by MCJ Staff
Saying the issue before Wisconsin and the nation is not its size, but who it works for, the head of Citizen Action of Wisconsin said the automatic federal spending cuts, or “sequester,” of $85 billion, didn’t have to happen.
“What is occurring is a human-made and self-imposed crisis,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.
Sequestration is a set of automatic across the board spending cuts put into law by the Budget Control Act to apply pressure on Congress to come up with a longer term plan for deficit reduction.
“At a time when our communities and families are just starting to do better, the last thing we need is 36,000 Wisconsinites being forced out of work,” Kraig said in a statement.
“The last thing we need is services to families that provide security and opportunity cut, things like nutrition for mothers and babies eliminated, teachers laid off, food inspectors and air traffic controllers furloughed.”
Jennifer Epps-Addison, economic justice director for Citizen Action of Wisconsin, noted that Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and tea-party conservative “co-conspirators” refused to act in the Senate on a bill that would have averted the sequester.
Instead Johnson and the other conservatives chose to filibuster the bill. Epps-Addison said Johnson’s and the other conservative senators’ refusal to act “shows (a) complete disregard for the devastation these unnecessary cuts will cause in the lives of Wisconsin families.
“Senator Johnson has once again chosen to protect the interests of millionaires and big corporations, instead of his constituents.”
On Monday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) said while sequestration will impact everyone in America—including Wisconsin—its impact will be particularly harmful on communities of color who were hit first and worst by the great recession, and have yet to significantly feel the effects of the recovery.
“Federal budget cuts under sequestration would quickly mean cuts to federal, state and local public-sector jobs, which disproportionately employ women and African Americans,” said CBC member Rep. Barbara Lee of California.
Lee said in 2011, employed African Americans made up 20 percent of the federal, state and local public-sector workforce, and that women were 50 percent more likely to work in the public sector.
Delegate Donna Christensen of the Virgin Islands echoed Lee’s lament of the sequester’s impact on Black Americans.
“African Americans are more likely to work in the public sector, where they jobs are going to be cut,” Christensen said.
“We already have the highest unemployment, and will be severely hurt by the reduction in unemployment benefits.”
Lee cited several other reasons why the sequester will hurt, from a study conducted by the Center for American Progress.
The study said minorities would be hurt by cuts to long-term unemployment benefits, workforce development programs, early childhood grants, youth job programs, healthcare research and home heating assistance under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Epps-Addison said the sequester can be ended and the budget crisis fixed, but “the path forward requires everyone, including millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.
“End tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas. End tax breaks for oil companies and make the wealthiest Americans pay taxes at the same rate they paid in the 1960, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s,” Epps-Addison continued.
“And put an end to wasteful Pentagon spending—beginning with the albatross known as the F-35 fighter jet. It’s time to invest in economy boosting policies like increasing education spending, which would create more than twice as many jobs as spending on bloated Pentagon defense contracts like the ones handed out to Hailliburton.”
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