When President Barack Obama and others warned about the harmful impact of the sequester, many voiced skepticism. They asked: What difference would $85 billion in spending cuts really make in a federal budget exceeding $2 trillion?
The problem has been in the timing and targeting of the reductions, late in the budget year and many items exempted from the ax. These factors magnify the impact, domestic discretionary programs, many serving the poor and vulnerable, among the hardest hit. Consider the squeeze on public housing, agencies narrowing their reach, leaving many who are eligible without access.
Last week, the Ohio Department of Health told its story of how it has tried to cope. Part of the problem has been a lack of information from Washington about where the reductions will land. What department officials know is that more than a dozen federal grants have been cut, the agency maneuvering ably to absorb a significant share of the reductions through administrative changes, and thus limiting the impact on the needy.
The sums are not huge, at $10 million in reductions so far. Yet the cuts have been harmful, reducing resources that bring an impressive return, including newborn health screenings and the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.
All of this is a reminder of the misguided approach of the sequester, taking aim at programs that improve communities, and have practically nothing to do with the countryís long-term deficit problems. President Obama long ago proposed abandoning this bad idea. Isnít this a matter on which Republicans and Democrats can agree?