Kick the can again? We can only hope

Sequestration is a fancy word that kind of rolls off the tongue. Surely, most taxpaying U.S. citizens know what it means by now. Here’s one definition that may clear things up if you’re among those out of the loop: The inability of Congress and the president to agree on what needs to be done in Washington to avoid automatic budget cuts that will affect every single state in the nation.

While the clock is ticking on Congress to prevent these deep and damaging federal cuts – set to go into effect Friday – this is what we heard from Washington during the weekend:

From Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill: “Unless the Republicans are willing to compromise and do a balanced approach, I think it will kick in.”

From Republican Sen. Tom Coburn: “The reason there is no agreement is because there’s no leadership from the president on actually recognizing what the problem is.”

Congress and the White House are once again pointing political fingers at each other. Some call it politics. We call it childish and counterproductive. And that’s being ever so kind.

The end result? If the cuts do occur, here’s what the White House says we’re looking at in Minnesota for this fiscal year (March-September):

The loss of about $7 million in funding for primary and secondary education (plus, Minnesota would lose roughly $9.2 million in funds for more than 100 teachers, aides and staff who help children with disabilities).

Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 700 children in Minnesota, reducing access to critical early education.

Minnesota would lose about $3 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Minnesota could lose another $1.6 million in grants for fish and wildlife protection.

Approximately 2,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $12.5 million in total.

The state will lose more than $200,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.

Minnesota will lose approximately $507,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events. Minnesota would also lose about $1.2 million in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 1,700 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs.

Minnesota could lose up to $113,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 400 fewer victims being served.

Minnesota would lose approximately $845,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors.

And, of course, there will be plenty of negative impacts on a national scale, too.

This platter of figures was put out Sunday by the Obama administration, along with a heaping scoop of blame toward Republicans – the White House didn’t just want to spread a message, it wanted to send one: that we have only Republicans to blame. Republicans, fearing a political hit, countered that Obama’s the one to blame.

Does it matter? Don’t they know we blame them both, that they’re all accountable? Surely they understand that. They can try to save face all they want, but in the end, if the sequester does kick in, they all look bad.

By now, you would think someone in Washington might have suggested kicking this can down to road to at least put the cuts off – an option that while it amounts to little more than a Band-Aid at least would spare us for the time being – but that hasn’t even been suggested even though politicians knew this day was coming.

Indeed, it appears few will go unaffected by sequestration; yes, that word really does roll off the tongue, but by putting it in context of its potential impact, it’s not a pretty word. We’ll find out this week if the White House and our elected officials in Congress can put aside the bickering for a few days and come up with something that will keep this word from ever being uttered again.