We should all be alarmed and dismayed that the House GOP leadership has embraced the harmful cuts to the federal budget known as “sequestration” that will take effect on March 1st unless Congress acts.
The impact on our economy would be devastating: according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the sequestration cuts would eliminate at least 750,000 jobs from the economy in 2013 and cut economic growth in half. George Mason University has estimated that 70,000 jobs would be lost in New York State alone. Many in my party and in the GOP have also cited the damaging impact it would have on our national defense.
The local impact would be unacceptable: hundreds of research and construction jobs at Brookhaven National Lab could be jeopardized. School Districts across Eastern Long Island could see their federal Title I and Special Education aid slashed or even eliminated, forcing the schools to reduce services or turn to local taxpayers. Cuts to the Army Corps of Engineers could leave important harbors and inlets un-dredged or under-dredged and slow the environmental permitting process.
We should all be working feverishly to avoid sequestration. Instead, the House GOP leadership seems to be more focused on avoiding the blame for the negative effects of a policy they endorsed. We must reduce the deficit, but there is a better way: I support a balanced approach that combines targeted (as opposed to across the board) reductions in expenditures with closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations. This would prevent the most harmful cuts to defense readiness, education, law enforcement and border protection, air traffic control and many other aspects of the federal government that are vitally important to our nation.
A Pew Research-USA Today Poll released today shows that most Americans favor the balanced approach I am pushing for, with 76% or respondents saying that the president and Congress should focus on a combination of spending cuts and tax increases to reduce the budget deficit. Only 19% agree with the GOP position of inflexibly opposing any attempt to raise revenue by closing tax loopholes.
Unfortunately, the House is not in session this week and only four legislative days remain until sequestration is scheduled to take place. I’m ready to work on a solution but time is running short. I urge the GOP leadership to work with the Senate on a balanced approach that solves the deficit problem without crippling our economic recovery and punishing middle-class families.