The Huffington Post set out to do an extensive review of sequestration stories from the past week, with the goal of finding 100. What seemed like a daunting task was completed in hours.Their list includes financial aid and work-study slashed for college students; Head Start programs cutting kids, cutting staff, cutting retirement contributions for staff; housing agencies not being able to offer vouchers or other rental assistance to as many families; courts having to close on Fridays; national parks reducing public education programs and bathroom cleanings; fewer curbs being made handicapped accessible; and more. In other words, many of the cuts the White House warned us were coming are already happening. The entire government and economy didn't fall off a sequester cliff into a sea of boiling oil, but that doesn't mean there aren't serious effects happening now and growing.
And while the continuing resolution Congress passed has allowed some agencies to avoid furloughs, others haven't and won't. The Huffington Post list includes closures of air traffic control towers at three small airports, for instance, with one lengthening medical response times, and you don't have to work the Google very hard to find more such closures. People upset about those closures continue to frame them as unnecessary and political, but Brian Beutler explains why they're actually necessary:
[Y]ou might think every airport or every tower in the whole country would be required to scale back its operations by the same amount. But that’s not how the FAA is structured. And by the agency’s reading of the law, it can make outsized cuts at low-traffic airports to limit consequences both at these airports and around the country, for air travel and for the national economy.So the little airports get hit hard because they're little and making cuts there affects fewer flights and fewer people. It spreads the pain to more different airports and their angry executives, but disrupts the nation's air travel less.
“These towers control traffic at airports with lower activity levels,” wrote Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in a co-authored op-ed. “Together, they handle less than 3 percent of commercial operations nationally, and less than 1 percent of air passengers.”
Not that that makes it a good thing! The vast majority of these cuts are bad things, whether they're keeping poor families from getting housing assistance, kicking kids out of Head Start, cutting workers' paychecks, or closing air traffic control towers. But Republicans shouldn't get to simultaneously pretend the sequester is no big deal and there's no urgency about ending it and scream about their local airport having problems. And national political reporters need to look local and realize that this is happening and it's hurting people.