I’m sure by now that most of you have heard of the sequester, the group of budget cuts that went into effect on March 1st. There has been much talk on the topic, ranging from how big it will be to what programs will be affected most. I’ll do my best to help you make sense of it all.
First of all, the sequester originates from the Budget Control Act passed in 2011, which was meant to push Congress to reduce the budget over the next decade, but no agreement was reached before the start of 2013. The cuts were meant to take effect on January 1st, but, since politicians are master procrastinators, they were pushed back to March 1st. The total amount cut over the next decade is $1.1 trillion dollars, which is split in half between domestic and defense spending.
One of the most publicized cuts has been to education spending, which takes an especially heavy hit. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is taking the brunt of the blow for education spending (this page gives a lot of useful graphs and information). Also, the Conjunction Junction will be closed until further notice, and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is being sold to a corporate firm that is planning on turning the area into a large mall with a Benihana and a Best Buy.
Many students may find themselves asking if their federal grants will be affected by the sequester, and unfortunately the answer is yes. The payment to take out a loan for next year is increased and campus-distributed aid such as work study and supplemental grants is being reduced. Kenyon faculty is reportedly covering the gap in funding through various bake sales, though the report could not be verified at this time.
The cuts created by the sequester can be tempered if Congress and President Obama agree on a new budget plan, but that does not seem likely. Republicans are calling for various spending cuts to reduce the effect of the domestic sequester (especially on aid like food stamps), while Democrats are calling for tax increases along with some spending cuts on things such as farm subsidies (some Dems are also calling for further cuts to defense spending). There will soon be boxes full of free piglets outside of grocery stores as farmers attempt to cut spending.
Washington will continue to fight over the cuts created by the sequester and what to do about them, but, like most issues these days, the two sides seem to be more distant from a deal than they are close to one. If a deal is not made, then we will obviously descend into a Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome situation in which students fight for the right to work in the library. Everyone knows those are the best jobs.