Wages of sequester


Remember the sequester? Congress would propose automatic, across-the-board cuts in federal spending that were so onerous, and so ridiculous, that lawmakers would be forced to enact responsible budget reform, including higher taxes on the richest Americans.

So much for theory. The sequester that could never happen has been in effect for more than four months — and Ohio is feeling the pain.

The nonpartisan research and advocacy group Policy Matters Ohio says the across-the-board federal cuts will take $184 million out of Ohio this year. The cuts mean less money for public health, summer lunches for poor kids, funding for senior centers, and Head Start — at a time when the need for such services is greater, not less.

This is not only inhumane, it makes no practical sense. Skimping on public health and Head Start will result in greater social costs and public spending down the line.

More examples of what the cuts mean to Ohio, according to Policy Matters:

● Funding for the supplemental nutrition program Women, Infants, and Children will be cut by $6.2 million this fiscal year.

● Newborn hearing screening will be cut by $92,100.

● Cuts in transportation aid mean that many seniors who live on fixed incomes and rely on mass transit will have no affordable way to get to medical appointments or the grocery store.

● Research funding for Ohio’s public universities will be cut by as much as $95 million.

● Ohio public schools will lose $66 million in aid, including $25.2 million of funds for disadvantaged children.

● The AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate program, which provides poor children with food in the summer, has lost 135 positions.

This is only a very partial list.

Roughly one third of Ohio’s budget comes from the much-cursed federal government. A substantial loss of federal funding impairs the state’s ability to do its work — funding public education, including higher education, maintaining roads and bridges, and helping the most vulnerable Ohioans, young and old.

Policy Matters calls on Ohio lawmakers to soften the blow of federal cutbacks. But the opposite is happening. The new state budget cuts taxes in a way that favors the wealthiest Ohioans, while failing to restore cuts in state aid to schools and other vital services.

A bipartisan group in Congress is trying to fashion a tax-reform package that would rescue Americans from the sequester. But that reasonable solution has been available for two years, and so far, there are few takers.

It turns out that the people in the corner are the working poor, the young poor, and the elderly poor. Washington’s response to this disgrace is paralysis. Ohio’s is more tax cuts.