Sequestration is here.
By John D. Turner
25 Mar 2013

(Sarcasm mode fully engaged, and tongue firmly ensconced in cheek.)

Well, it’s here. Sequestration happened. Despite the assurances by the President during the debate with Mr. Romney last year that it would not, it did. Not that it matters – he was re-elected, so what’s the diff, anyway? So now what?

Everyone suffers, I guess. That’s the plan, anyway. Due to sequestration and the evil Republicans, we no longer have money to take school children on tours of the White House; all White House tours have been cancelled for the duration. We are furloughing border guards (but giving their bosses promotions and raises), releasing people from custody who entered our country illegally, and 149 air traffic control towers across the country are going to be emptied and shut down. And don’t forget the 800K federal workers in the Department of Defense who are going to be laid off for 22 days, sacrificing 20% of their pay from May through the end of September.

The government had announced as well that they were furloughing all USDA meat inspectors due to the sequester as well. However it was pointed out by industry watchers and others that the government has a legal obligation, defined in various federal laws, to provide meat inspection, and that to not do so would in essence completely shut down American meat and poultry production.

This was apparently enough to get the Senate off its duff, and they voted to prevent the administration from furloughing meat inspectors, as an amendment to the spending bill they passed to avoid the looming government shutdown on 27 Mar. They also voted to restore cuts to military tuition assistance which had also been canceled due to the sequestration cuts.

The House passed its version of the bill, which also contained provisions for avoiding this particular furlough, last Thursday. No changes were reportedly made from the Senate bill. So now the big question is whether the President will sign the final legislation. He had previously said he would veto any attempt to make the sequestration any less painful. Does that include shutting down America’s meat and poultry production? We shall see.

These are tough times and we have to save money somewhere, thanks to the evil Republicans and that spend-thrift George Bush. Thank goodness we have someone in the White House now who can make the tough decisions!

But not to worry; the administration still has sufficient cash on their printing presses to provide essential services to some. For example, during his recent visit to the Middle East this week, President Obama found sufficient ready cash to unblock $500 million in aid to the Palestinians.

We also seem to have enough money to continue a partnership program to “raise awareness” in Mexico about food stamps so that when Mexican nationals cross our border (legally or illegally) they know how to apply for food assistance here in the US. We wouldn’t want any Mexican nationals to starve to death here in the land of plenty now, would we? I don’t know how much this program costs, but I am sure it isn’t free. This partnership with Mexico was started under the Bush administration, and, according to a report by Fox news, has included since 2004 “roughly 91 meetings between U.S. and Mexico embassy and consulate staff; 29 health fair events; and 31 roundtable discussions, conferences and forums in 20 cities.”

I guess I shouldn’t call them “food stamps” any longer. We have a “snappy” new name for it now; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. Sounds so much better than “food stamps” which has a negative connotation. Thanks to George Bush and this lousy economy he saddled us with five years ago, we now have more Americans than ever before who are benefiting from the SNAP program; 47.7 million as of Dec 2012. The good news, I suppose, is that only around 1.23 million of those (as of 2010) are legal non-citizens participating in the program. Of course, that is an increase of around 290% since 2001, but that too (like everything else) can be blamed on that miscreant George W. Bush.

We still, thankfully, have money for all sorts of things including vital scientific research. We are, it seems, extremely focused on health concerns for small but significant segments of our society. For example, we are, despite the sequester, still spending $1.5 million to find out why lesbians are fat.

I guess I shouldn’t worry about it too much though. As this article points out, the study isn’t actually about lesbians per se. The study is actually titled “Sexual Orientation and Obesity: Test of a Gendered Biophysical Model.” As the author points out, heterosexuality is an “orientation” too, and the study also studies gays and “straights” as well. And besides, it’s only $1.5 million and since obesity is responsible for 21% of medical spending (which is now a government concern since the government is picking up the tab), so really we should be cheering, not jeering this expenditure of tax money.

Perhaps. But then again in my opinion, the author misses the point, which is that in an era when we are cutting things like air traffic control towers, meat inspectors, and releasing prisoners, perhaps we should defer this sort of spending instead to a time when we have more money rather than cutting essential services. Sure, it is only $1.5 million; but $1.5 million here and $1.5 million there, and pretty soon you are starting to talk about “real money.”

Then there is the $2.7 million study on lesbians who drink too much. Apparently they are at higher risk of such behavior than the general population, and the National Institutes of Health wants to know why. Again, perhaps worthy of study, but more worthy of funding than guarding the border or keeping prisoner’s incarcerated?

But then again, I am sure that none of the 2,228 detainees released “due to sequestration cuts” pose a threat to society. Just a group of Jose’s, Manuel’s and Juanita’s here to pick our lettuce, mow our lawns, and babysit our kids (those jobs that Americans refuse to do) who shouldn’t have been thrown in the slammer anyway, I am sure. Just another example of neocon fascist Republicans making life difficult for the downtrodden masses who are only here trying to make a buck to support their families back in Mexico.

Again, perhaps. Perhaps not. According to a report out of Miami, where 225 of the total were released, 76 of those had criminal convictions, including 10 “Level 1” offenders and two considered aggravated felons. 76 out of 225 is 34% of the total. Assuming that holds true across the entire population, that means of the total 2,228 released, we could expect that we just released around 753 people with criminal convictions back out into the general population. Of course, it is possible that only in Miami were criminal offenders released. And it is possible that the percentage released in Miami is not representative of the percentages nationwide.

There were 771 foreign nationals were released here in Texas. I wonder if any of them were overweight or drunken lesbians that might benefit from the research work still being funded by the government.