Most people think of sequestration as imposing across-the-board cuts of 5 to 7 percent, a figure that doesn't sound all that alarming. While that's technically correct, what's now becoming clear is how the cuts have ramifications far larger than the 5 to 7 percent figure would suggest. This is the finding a big new study on sequestration by NDD United, a coalition that works to protect non-defense domestic spending.
Basically the problem is this: Sequestration cuts aren't actually translating into a mere trimming of spending by all the agencies affected. Some programs are getting completely gutted, in ways that reverberate out and have other negative effects. In other cases, even small cuts can make certain services or initiatives so unreliable as to no longer be of much value.
Take the example of an Arkansas Head Start program that NDD mentions in its report. To cope with the cuts, it has reduced the number of days that the pre-K program operates. But if you're a low-income parent with a full-time job, it's not okay to suddenly have a bunch of gaps in the care provided for your kids. You'll probably need to find another solution.
Other Head Start programs have had to close because they were already hanging on by a thread. Remember, the sequestration cuts are coming on top of years of other cuts, both federal and state, since the start of the recession. Many outfits that provide educational or human services were struggling to survive before these cuts, which have now delivered a knockout blow in various cases -- like a Head Start center that closed in Taneytown, Maryland, forcing some low-income parents to quit their jobs to take care of their kids.
I could go on with more examples, but probably the best thing to do is just read this disturbing and, indeed, heartbreaking report.