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Sequester limits public services

For The Miami Student

Published: Friday, March 22, 2013

Updated: Friday, March 22, 2013 00:03

Sequestration went into effect March 1, as Washington’s deadline to reach a budget compromise passed without resolution. Some say the series of federal budget cuts will impact the Oxford community.

As both parties have failed to produce a budget, cuts will be felt at the federal level, according to Charles Moul, assistant professor of economics at Miami University. These cuts are likely to affect Oxford and surrounding communities.

Moul explained the threat of sequestration was intended to encourage and ensure the creation of a budget that would be amenable to both parties.

“The system has not been working the way it is supposed to for the past two years now,” Moul said. “Both sides are to blame. We have a system of rules that are not being abided by and it is the reason we keep lurching from one crisis to the next. This is all stemming from Congress not doing their constitutional duty of passing a budget and giving it to the president.”

The congressional budget office estimates $85 billion in cuts across all federal agency budgets, according to Bryan Marshall, assistant chair and chief departmental advisor of the political science department. He added this may result in the loss of 750,000 jobs nationally.

“Since these cuts are being made across the board, certain people are more likely to feel it than others,” Marshall said. “Some of the money could have been used for job training, which would be more likely to hurt younger people, while some could argue that these programs could hurt older people just as well. Meals on Wheels and other federally subsidized programs will also take a significant hit. It’s sprinkling the pain across all groups of people, which is exactly what it was designed to do.”

Partners in Prime is a program for senior citizens in neighboring towns and communities, which provides lunch and transportation services for people who can no longer drive or leave their homes. They will be negatively impacted by a decrease in federal dollars, according to Steve Schnabl, CEO.

“If federal money declines, the country’s dollars cannot be spent on the senior center operations programs and we will see a loss at our agency of about $15,000 to $20,000 that we will not be able to make up anywhere else,” Schnabl said. “Lunch programs serve about 18 thousand meals. A reduction of five percent would take away about 900 meals that we could serve.”

Partners in Prime, which operates in Fairfield, Hamilton and West Chester, will be forced to reduce programming at all locations, according to Schnabl.

“With about 75 meals a month, and people who come more regularly than others, we will no longer be able to serve from 3-10 of them,” Schnabl said.

Schnabl emphasized the importance of transportation services for senior citizens and said the seniors who have no access to transportation may have to move into nursing homes. If the federal government were to pay for this relocation and subsequent stay in a nursing home, it would see expenses five times greater than allowing home independence while providing transportation, according to Schnabl.

The most visible budget cut effects will be seen in government offices and federally subsidized organizations, according to Michael Rudolph, vice chair of the Board of the Oxford Chamber of Commerce.

For example, said Rudolph, the Transportation Security Administration agents in our nearby airports may be short-staffed. Though there will still be commercial airplanes and security, there may be fewer flights and longer lines.

“Effects of these cuts are not likely to be felt in Oxford in the short term,” Rudolph said. “…Many people in the defense sector or working with military contracts are more likely to feel the fallout. Long term I am not sure what will happen, but anytime there are cuts in government agencies, we all feel it. We all have something in our lives that is provided by government employees.”

Senior political science major, Robert Harrelson, explained his concern about the sequestration.

“The sequester would only account for a fraction of our spending,” Harrelson said. “Although facing this long-term issue upfront is most important, I wish we could have found a way for both parties to have been more strategic.”

Schnabl further expressed his disappointment in what he sees as Washington’s ineffective leadership.

“What is so stressful about sequestration is that our leaders need to lead us to a better conclusion, rather than throwing up their hands and quitting,” Schnabl said.

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