After a long delay, the New York Times has finally located some sympathetic victims of the federal budget sequester and placed them on Monday's front page. Jonathan Weisman reported "Stories of Struggle and Creativity As Sequestration Cuts Hit Home."
Facing the task of cutting 142 children from the Head Start program in Colorado Springs this fall, the teachers and administrators came up with a creative response: Have the children decorate empty chairs, then sell them for $500 apiece to stave off the worst of the across-the-board federal cuts heading their way. So far, in a month, their “Fill a Seat” fund-raiser has filled just two slots in the program.
But in neighboring Wyoming, the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks were able to tap the deep pockets and political influence of affluent donors and the support of neighboring communities to maintain full park operations through the peak tourist season this summer.
The $85 billion in federal budget cuts known as sequestration are beginning to be felt far from the nation’s capital, like at a Head Start program in Pejepscot, Me., that is being closed and a cancer center in Birmingham, Ala., that is looking at layoffs. Kidney patients are losing their free transportation to dialysis centers in Stark County, Ohio, and flood gauges are being shut down on the Red River in North Dakota.
Some programs are coping, some are struggling and others appear to be out of luck.
The Times threw around the "A" word some more.
Some program administrators are resigned to austerity. “At this point, everyone’s had enough time to digest that this is a new chapter in our story, and we just have to learn to work with it,” said Noreen Landis-Tyson, chief executive of the Community Partnership for Childhood Development, which runs Head Start in El Paso County, Colo. “We have to see this as an opportunity. Otherwise I’d have to sit in the corner and cry.”
Not everyone is feeling the pain. Congress delivered a last-minute reprieve last month for air traffic controllers facing layoffs. The only other sequestration fix that may come out of the House in the coming weeks would spare oncologists from a 2 percent cut in reimbursements for chemotherapy.
Officials at Yellowstone, struggling with pending cuts, had decided to delay opening much of the park until the snow on the roads melted on its own. Then the neighboring towns of Cody and Jackson, Wyo., raised $171,000 to pay for snow-removal crews. The roads to Old Faithful from the west and east opened on schedule, said Al Nash, a park spokesman, and the South Entrance, weather permitting, will open on May 10 -- right on time.
Weisman sounded a little like Jesse Jackson in this paragraph that ended on a rhyme, while equating lack of access to tax money to "bad news":
But such good-news stories are eclipsed by the bad. Washington appears to have reached its limit in offering assistance, especially for hard-hit social programs. And many recipients of federal money have replaced prayers of hope with efforts to cope.
Earlier, reporter Nelson Schwartz celebrated better-than-expected job growth but warned it could end thanks to federal "austerity" (i.e. sequestration) in Saturday's lead story:
Washington may be hitting the brakes, but the private sector is still rolling ahead, helping create nearly 200,000 jobs a month, on average, since the beginning of the year and forcing the overall unemployment rate in April down to its lowest level since the end of 2008
Still, at 7.5 percent, a slight drop from last month’s 7.6 percent, the jobless rate remains far higher than it typically would be this far into a recovery. It is also a full percentage point above the level the Federal Reserve has said it wants to see before it will consider raising interest rates from their current levels near zero.
As a result, most experts expect the economy to continue to be buffeted by countervailing factors in the months ahead, with business activity and the Fed providing a healthy measure of support for growth even as fiscal austerity in Washington makes a substantial drop in the unemployment rate unlikely.
While the private sector has been on the upswing since last summer, cutbacks in government employment continue to prevent a stronger acceleration in the economy, economists said.