Regardless of how one feels about the sequestration debate – either it’s a terrible example of heartless partisan gridlock or a tough but necessary path to fiscal discipline – the reality is that the automatic cuts expected in different areas of government spending are already having an impact.
“We have lost about 20 employees through sequestration,” said Raymond Lopez, Jr., president and CEO of Engineering Services Network (ESN), one of the top Latino-owned companies in Virginia. ESN is an engineering and technology company which does contract work for the Department of Defense. In anticipation of cuts, Lopez’ customers have cut back on orders, resulting in the layoffs.
“This is a sad commentary on our ability to govern in this country by our elected representatives,” said Lopez. “If everything is done by knee-jerk reaction, we are going to hurt our sons and daughters who are our war fighters right now,” remarked Lopez, who retired as a full Commander in the Navy before his work as a defense contractor.
Some federal employees are already bracing for the anticipated furloughs – unpaid, required days off in order to offset reduced funding to their agencies.
“I am curtailing my personal spending in anticipation of what may happen,” says an employee at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)who does not wish to be identified. The employee’s department has been told there will probably be furloughs to avoid cuts in the department’s operations.
In New Mexico, more than 7,000 civilian military contractors are facing furloughs, resulting in more than $42 million in income loss, according to Democratic Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham.
In the town of Hartford, Connecticut, Mayor Pedro Segarra has stated that a reduction in federal funds would adversely affect 14 programs in his city, ranging from money for WIC (Women, Infant and Children) which provides supplemental food for low-income mothers and children under the age of 5, and well as housing and public health programs. “The bottom line is that Congress is making decisions that will impact the day-to-day lives of many residents here in Hartford,” said Mayor Segarra when the “fiscal cliff” talks were just an abstraction.
In the meantime, back in the Beltway, there is no sign yet that the two parties can reach an agreement that would avert sequestration from taking place. Republican legislators in the House backed House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to let the cuts take place without agreement with the Administration. “I think he (Boehner) realized the president of the United States was using him as a tool for his own benefit and was not actually in a partnership with him, and he also realized that we in the House were not happy with what was coming out of those negotiations,” said Idaho Republican Congressman Raúl Labrador to the New York Times.
President Obama, in a press conference with reporters today, fired back and laid the blame of the sequester on the GOP. “Let’s be clear – it’s because of a choice the Republicans chose to make – they decided to protect special interest tax breaks and that is more important than protecting our military and middle class families,” said Obama.
But for those going through cuts, what they would like to see is light at the end of the tunnel.
“Our elected officials owe it to their constituents to sit down and fix this problem once and for all,” said Virginia defense contractor Raymond Lopez.