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Finally, an example of prompt bipartisan cooperation in Washington — a craven and irresponsible example.
Congress has passed, and President Obama is expected to sign, emergency legislation that will spare air travelers from further inconvenience caused by federal budget sequestration. The measure averts mandatory furloughs of air traffic controllers by the Federal Aviation Administration, which resulted in major flight delays this month, by shifting money earmarked for airport improvements.
But the sequester — which requires harsh, automatic, across-the-board cuts in domestic and defense spending — is causing even more harm to plenty of Americans who are too poor to fly. Where is the concern for them on Capitol Hill or in the White House? Does their inability to command a powerful, vocal lobby in Washington mean they don’t count?
The Obama Administration properly complained that the air-travel measure “does not solve the bigger problem” of sequestration. But the President and Democrats in Congress were so intent on silencing Republicans’ efforts to blame them for the flight delays, they abandoned their previous insistence that the issue would be addressed only as part of broader budget legislation.
So there will be no equally quick action to address the sequester’s effect on Head Start, which will remove 70,000 children — thousands of them in Ohio — from high-quality preschool education programs. Lawmakers left for a recess this week without giving much, if any, thought to the damage they have done to programs that feed hungry children and old people, and provide financial aid and jobs to keep college students in school.
In Toledo, as in other communities across the nation, the sequester is cutting federal aid to homeless shelters, low-income housing programs, and projects that aim to help small businesses. Local development and service agencies say they are forced into unseemly competition for a pot of money that was too small even before the sequester hit.
Across Ohio, the sequester threatens federal aid that school districts need to educate tens of thousands of disadvantaged and disabled children, and to keep hundreds of teachers employed. It is reducing unemployment benefits to workers whom the economic recovery continues to ignore.
The sequester is jeopardizing programs that care for and vaccinate children, conduct vital cancer research, test for HIV, treat drug and alcohol abuse, help victims of domestic violence, retrain workers, prevent crime, and protect the environment and public health. Such things evidently command lower priorities in Washington than ensuring that airline passengers don’t feel the budget pain that too many earthbound Americans are enduring.
Lawmakers and the President must agree on meaningful, long-term budget reform measures that would replace the sequester, but they appear in no hurry to do so. In the meantime, they need to end the suffering the sequester is causing — not just for air travelers and other special interests, but for all Americans.
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