Too often, the machinations of government seem intangible to the average citizen. Many politicians try gamely to make clear statements about what this bill or that one will mean to their constituents, but to little avail. (Sen. Charles Schumer can be counted on to provide a “county-by-county breakdown” of just about any statistic you like.)
But, despite talk by Republicans that President Barack Obama is using sequestration as a bogeyman to scare the country onto his side, this is one instance where the workings of government are about to get all too tangible.
Under the package of broad cuts known as the sequester, senior citizens who rely on programs such as Meals on Wheels will see those services cut by* 4 million meals. Think of your mother, or your grandfather, for whom those daily deliveries may provide the only balanced, hot meal they eat all day. And now think about that meal going away. What will that mean for your mother’s health? Who will make sure your grandfather is getting enough to eat during the day?
Thousands of working parents with young children in Head Start or subsidized child care will suddenly find themselves without a place to take their kids in the morning. Think about what this would mean to you if you were in that situation. Would you have a backup plan for child care? Could you afford to miss work to stay home with your child indefinitely until you lined something up?
The already-stretched-thin Home Energy Assistance Program will dry up for more than 400,000 households. While spring may be around the corner according to the calendar, we’re still facing many cold days and nights before we can shut off the furnace or clean out the woodstove for the season. Think about the family relying on HEAP to buy that next delivery of fuel oil. What will they have to sacrifice to keep their home heated? Will it be clothes? Or will it be food, or medicine?
Otsego County Department of Social Services Deputy Commissioner Eve Bouboulis told The Daily Star that assistance with home heating and child care are big issues for the local area.
“They are really needed in this county,” she said.
Republicans have questioned these figures, provided by President Obama. Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp said the overall dangers of sequestration are greatly exaggerated.
“Most Americans are going to wake up Friday morning and yawn,” Huelskamp predicted.
We pray that Huelskamp is right. But we’d really prefer not to find out. We wonder if Huelskamp and his Republican colleagues in Congress really have any idea what these cuts will mean to the millions of Americans who rely on these programs. The cuts may seem abstract and intangible to them. To us, they seem all too real.
*Editor's note: This story was changed at 10:30 a.m. March 1 to correct an error in the amount of money to be cut from senior feeding programs.