Up until about six months ago, mere discussion of a “Fiscal Cliff” was boring to friends, family and even many of my colleagues. It was too far off and those automatic budget cuts? Pshaw! It would never happen. The President even said during a debate that we wouldn’t go off the so-called cliff, so why worry? It was just a myth of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s imagination. A term Bernanke had coined last February while testifying in a congressional hearing in which he dutifully pointed out that tax cuts, sequestration and reduction in the deficit might cause a recession at the start of 2013. Of course no one dared to think that Congress might be willing to walk the precipice and take the country to the brink of a recession due to inability to find common ground. Then again, when sequestration was brought up in 2011, I know that I didn’t think that Congress would go forth with massive across the board cuts and yet, here we are, among an unfortunate experiment in How to Compromise featuring the President of the United States.
Two thumbs down.
Thankfully(?) this cliff has something for everyone so we’re quite literally all in this together. While some worry about cuts in foreign aid and others worry about the amount their taxes will increase, I find myself worried about the draconian cuts to domestic spending of which education takes the brunt of the hit.
On January 2nd, 2013, Title I grants would be cut by $1.2 billion which will cut services for 1.7 million students and eliminating more than 15,000 education jobs. And for those of you with children who have special needs? IDEA grants — which already are less than adequately funded — would drop to 2006 levels despite a 27 percent rise in costs since then. School Improvement Grants, higher education, rural education and early childhood education? Cut. Cut. Cut and slashed. Not only would students be impacted but those who teach them will once again face unemployment which would hurt the recovery then the economy and of course all of us. But I like to keep it simple and simply scream WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!? to people who no longer want to hear of commonplace Washington fighting.
The National Education Association has provided a helpful chart of how these cuts to education will affect each state. I’m from New York where these cuts will translate to a loss of $250 million in education aid, which will affect an estimated 365,000 students and could cause almost 4,000 job losses in education. Thus rendering any work — and we can debate how much work has been done at a later date — done to improve the economy useless.
So, what now? Now we wait. This afternoon the president and congressional leaders have a meeting to discuss the cliff, its impact and how to prevent it. Some remain hopeful (raises hand) that a deal will be brokered and this will be another of those fun DC exercises in causing the entire country it represents to freak out. Others are far more pessimistic and think that the whole thing will be hopeless and are ready for the 113th Congress to embark on the same path. Then there are the many who really don’t care, haven’t been paying attention and are more concerned about how to spend that Anthropologie gift card.
And here is where I make my appeal that wherever you happen to find yourself on the spectrum of caring about Congress, I do hope you make yourself at least a little aware of what is happening. Even if that means reading the Washington Post with a mimosa by your side and a WTF look on your face, whatever happens happens and will impact all of us.