When the poor are pinched, we’ll all yell ‘Ouch!’
Yes, yes, I know you don’t want to hear about sequestration again, and just looking at the word makes your brain all twisty. The bigger problem is that our so-called representatives feel the same way. Just like Scarlett O’Hara, they’ve chosen to think about that tomorrow. Trouble is, the people who are affected by their inattentiveness are hurting today.
If you think sequestration won’t affect you, think again. Just one tiny piece of it — budgetary cuts to the federal housing program — will affect you deeply. In months to come, you’ll discover more and more “hidden homeless” — people sleeping on friends’ couches or squeezing into a relative’s garage. You’ll wonder why crime has spiked as people become desperate to feed their children. You’ll wonder why certain rental properties are deteriorating. When the poorest of the poor are pinched, sooner or later, everyone says, “Ouch!”
So, what is sequestration.
Sequestration is $1.2 trillion in automatic federal budget cuts that span over the next 10 years. In January of this year, $85 billion was summarily trimmed from the federal budget as outlined in the Budget Control Act of 2011. Sequestration was supposed to force Congress into passing a budget. It didn’t.
The theory was that our “representatives” would rather hold their noses and sign a budget they didn’t completely like than to devastate services Americans depend upon. That was the theory.
The reality is that our “representatives” decided to let average Americans pay the price of their incompetence rather than risk their chances of reelection. They do not represent Us. They represent themselves, and saving their own political skins. Period. Republicans refuse to raise taxes and will only consider cutting expenses, and Democrats, well, I’m not sure what exactly they’re doing besides cowering in the corner and politely asking the Republicans to play nice. Then the Republicans punch them in the stomach and they whimper, “Please sir, may I have another.”
Our Congress is focused on perpetual job security for a relative handful of people, and with the assistance of the mass media, we aid and abet them by waving the Red or Blue pompoms and avidly participating in the whole charade.
That said, I must commend our local Congressman, John Garamendi, who actually came to Winters to meet the very people who are suffering the consequences of federal housing budget cuts— those living in public housing complexes like El Rio Villas in Winters and those receiving federal vouchers to supplement private rentals.
Visiting El Rio Villas for the first time, Garamendi sat down at the table and heard stories of sadness, stress and struggle. Of all the dire stories, the one that stung hardest was that of a terminally ill father of four. Despite his illness, he still works full time for $800 a month. His rent is $1,000. His wife died, so his children work every weekend to help support the family. They’ve never taken a vacation because not only do they work every weekend, they can’t afford one. Despite grief and poverty, his children never got into trouble. One son is planning to go off to college. The other (ironically) plans to enlist in the military.
With two young girls left to support, still working while he’s very sick, this man finally qualified for a housing voucher to get some rent relief. The day he had it in his hands, Yolo County Housing froze its vouchers due to the housing budget cuts. It was revoked the same day. It’s like putting food in a starving person’s mouth and then yanking it out the moment he tastes it.
This man is stressed. Sick. Bitter. And after he finished speaking, he added dejectedly, quietly, “I’m looking for help. That’s it.”
Garamendi audibly gasped. He seemed exasperated by all he’d heard. Will it help? Although he gave impassioned commentary, he admitted that it would probably take a year before anything changed. So I asked him, “You say it will take a year. But some of these people may be homeless in six months. Where do they go? What do we do right here in our communities?”
Sadly, he didn’t have an answer, other than to speak out to our “representatives,” pressure them, and demand that they do their job: Balance the budget. And before the end of the year too, because more budget cuts will ratchet down in January if they don’t. We will see people really starting to suffer just six months from now.
So, let’s apply some pressure:
Me, I won’t be directly affected by the sequestration-triggered housing cuts. I’ll still have a nice, warm home. But people in my own community, particularly children, won’t. How do I sleep at night knowing that, meanwhile, there are hungry children sleeping in cold garages and sick, disabled seniors shivering under the trestle bridge? Forget sleeping — how do I live with myself?
The real question, Mr. Congressman and Ms. Congresswoman, is how do YOU sleep at night knowing you’ve caused it? On a massive scale? Knowing that you placed your own self-interest ahead of the lives and wellbeing of those you were elected to represent? How do you live with yourselves knowing that your desire for reelection is more precious to you than children going without dinner and disabled veterans sleeping in cars? What the hell is the matter with you? You were elected to represent and protect these people, and all you’re doing is giving your base a hand job so it will reward you. It is disgusting, it is despicable, it is downright loathsome.
I have news for you, Mr. and Ms. Politician: The poor of this country can’t afford cake. If you can’t give them the means to make their own meager bread, then I say off with your political heads — each and every one.
It’s clear: We the People must throw down our Red and Blue pompoms. Do not vote for any incumbent who fails to do his or her job and balance the budget by the year’s end.