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Sequestration: We Have a Choice

Senator Cardin is a member of four Senate committees: Environment & Public Works, Finance, Foreign Relations, and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Twitter @SenatorCardin.

On March 1, automatic, across-the-board spending cuts will begin to take effect, cutting $1.2 trillion from defense and non-defense programs over the next 10 years. These automatic cuts are known as sequestration and they will have a devastating effect on millions of Americans.  

If Congress fails to act to reduce our budget deficit by March 1st, sequestration will result in a meat ax approach to reducing our deficit. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, sequestration for FY2013 alone will require across-the-board cuts of approximately $42.7 billion in defense and another $42.7 billion in non-defense spending.  Instead of sequestration, we need to develop a fair and comprehensive deficit reduction plan that is based on our nation’s needs. 

Sequestration is not just about numbers. If it occurs, it will take a terrible toll on millions of Americans. Sequestration will force indiscriminate cuts in defense, education, food safety, medical research, law enforcement, job training and agricultural programs, among many others.   

Today, Maryland has 60 non-military federal facilities and 17 military facilities, and more than 300,000 Marylanders work for the federal government in both civilian and military jobs. Our state is particularly vulnerable to sequestration.  In fact, the Maryland Board of Revenue Estimates projects that sequestration could mean a loss of 12,600 jobs resulting in a reduction of Maryland’s wage and salary base by $2.5 billion

Few people realize how much states and local governments depend on federal funding for education.  The Maryland Board of Revenue Estimates projects that our state could lose $55 million in education funding in the next year. Such severe cuts could mean as many as 900 children would be unable to enroll in Head Start and we could lose 500 teachers, along with many other serious cuts to educational programs.

I have met with federal employees from across the state and there is great alarm at the thought of sequestration -- not just because of a loss of wages, but because Americans depend on what our federal workers do.  From issuing Social Security checks to overseeing our National Park system to processing passports to conducting medical research and to ensuring our food and drugs are safe, federal workers are dedicated to our nation.

We can avoid sequestration, but we must act now.  In 2011, we took significant steps to cut spending when we passed the Budget Control Act, reducing spending by $1.5 trillion.  In January, we achieved approximately $600 billion in additional revenue when we passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA).  We are two-thirds of the way there. 

But, we still need approximately $1.4 trillion in deficit reduction, which I believe is achievable. Instead of sequestration, we need a balanced approach that includes both increased revenues and decreased spending.  

On the revenue side, let’s end tax preferences for the oil and gas industries, limit itemized deductions for wealthier families and close tax loopholes that allow some to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  On the spending side, we need to bring down health care costs, which will create significant savings. We also should count significant reductions in spending as we withdraw our troops from Afghanistan and reorganize our military to better face the threat of terrorism.

The American people are tired of these budget showdowns and stopgap measures.  We need to develop comprehensive and fair solutions that will solve our long-term deficit problems, but we can only accomplish that if we work together in the spirit of mutual respect and compromise.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sanchez March 06, 2013 at 11:23 PM
"Someone here would suggest that Donald Trump who has declared bankruptcy several times in his career, destroying the lives... " Really? You keep repeating that and for what reason? Have you ever claimed bankruptcy? If not why not? Never started a business? Never made a payroll when you didn't get paid? Anyone like Trump, regardless of your emotional misgivings for him, who start many businesses are for sure going to fail at times. How is that to be held AGAINST him? Do you have any idea what HIS payroll is? How many people rely on a job in his many businesses today? "ruined lives"? SO emotional and flat out wrong. Everyone has lost a job or 10. Their lives are disrupted many times but not "destroyed". "stealing the money of investors"??? That is an allegation that you make of whole cloth. How? Ponzi and Milken and and others did, not Trump. His investors know the risks and for you to say that savvy millionaire investors are somehow naive and being robbed by Trump is absurd. You rhetoric makes me think you have spent many evenings in parks and held signs up with some anti establishment messages. Are you an Occupooper?
hawkeye March 07, 2013 at 12:44 AM
Steve: I take Harris seriously. At least he's not a lifetime politician like Cardin and Mikulski and is a self-made man. His parents, having both immigrated from Communist countries, were not wealthy people. The fact he went to college and medical school is, like Dr. Ben Carson, an American success story. Why is it that Democrats want to crap on that? Because it doesn't fit with the typical "Republican" rhetoric that they espouse. Liberals cannot believe that Republicans are actually decent people.
1ke March 07, 2013 at 12:54 AM
Ask the people of the Eastern Shore, who were silly enough to vote for him, about his decency.
Steve March 07, 2013 at 03:35 AM
Harris is a Veteran, but yet he couldn't get the endorsement from the VFW. His staff was busted plying an underage girl with alcohol.
Tammy Doring March 07, 2013 at 01:28 PM
All this "hair on fire crisis" over a 2% DECREASE in the proposed INCREASE of spending! Only in Washington can this be called a cut. So now we have sequestration and the President is determined to make it as painful as possible then blame Republicans. i.e. Department of Agriculture memo re: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Official Charles Brown said he asked if he could try to spread out the sequester cuts in his region to minimize the impact, and he said he was told not to do anything that would lessen the dire impacts Congress had been warned of. (Washington Times) And the silly games with cancelling White House tours borders on juvenile. (How much does a self guided tour cost?) It's time to elect men and women who are serious about governing, not their own political power. Sadly, I don't see this happening in the near future.

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