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Summer Sequester Woes Escape Those Who Write About It


Sequester Victim
Hot summer days are for poolside lounging and hanging out somewhere cool with a refreshing beverage unless you’re one of the millions of evidently inconsequential chumps battered by the failure of Congress to do their job. The Sequester, according to the myopic Washington Post, lets the bulk of America waddle on in ignorance, unscathed by the faux calamity created by Obama.

Not so fast. Did they mention anything about the, um, less-financially-endowed (LFE)? Or those trying to keep the LFEs alive?


The Post’s shortcomings were called to task by blogger Kathryn Baer. She gets it, “The Post‘s approach also minimizes sequester damages because it takes no account of the impacts of cuts agencies made to avert — or partly avert — the impacts they’d predicted.”

Evidently the teachers serving disabled students don’t deserve a WP mention. Nor do the teachers’ aides or expendable school staff who will also get their hours slashed or be sent packing. LFE students or parents won’t complain much either.

Homelessness and subsidized housing didn’t rate either, although shelters are pummeled by the 1-2 punch: summer crowds (yes, homelessness tends to soar in the summer when domestic violence increases and families and individuals are booted to the street because it’s not freezing cold) and slashed funds.

My friend Lesly runs Hope Haven, a hectic and respected shelter in DeKalb, IL. She reports a $20,ooo sequester-related shortfall. That’s a big chunk of change for those operating hand-to-mouth on shoestring budgets.

Holy Family shelter in Willimantic, CT recently contacted me with an urgent plea for funds because they will not be able to make payroll.

And I'd be negligent to ignore the reality that my nonprofit, HEAR US Inc., is experiencing. Sales of our DVDs and books to help schools and communities understand homelessness as it affects families have withered. Sequester related? You betcha!

Families exiting homelessness with the hope of finding a place to live are typically helped by subsidized housing, aka Section 8 or rental vouchers. A quick scan of news stories related to sequester cuts and housing vouchers turns up a slew of dire headlines, like this Houston story where up to 10,000 families will feel the pain. Imagine the dismay of being told your housing assistance, the difference between homelessness and independence, is being yanked as you were on the way out the shelter door.

The Post’s blithe dismissal of minimal cuts to the plethora of federal agencies, “the ‘meat cleaver’ of sequestration often became a scalpel. It spared crucial programs but cut second-tier priorities such as maintenance, information technology, employee travel and scientific conferences,” misses the fact that someone depends on their paycheck for doing these jobs. For example, the cuts to conferences trickle down and smack the hotel maids, food servers, etc.

One force, albeit greatly diminished, in the poverty struggle is media. Hats off to AlterNet for their continued comprehensive coverage, including the comprehensive  Hard Times USA series!

This spring I jumped on the New York Times for their lack of coverage. Word trickled up to Margaret Sullivan, their public editor. I was surprised to hear from her, and delighted that she at least broached the issue of mainstream media’s dearth of poverty coverage, confirming that the NYT was guilty as charged. I wasn’t the only one harping and evidently the issue resonated much louder than expected.

One meager but worthwhile strategy in advocating for LFE populations is to engage media. Over the years I’ve developed invaluable relationships with decent humans who work for less-than-decent media conglomerates. I’m willing to apply this strategy to the recent WP’s pathetic sequester coverage.

So here's a little something we all can do: Let’s email the writers of the story and urge them to cover the LFE viewpoint as impacted by The Sequester.

Social media gives us the tools to organize movements to improve our world. Fostering awareness and understanding of how draconian economic policies affect the LFEs will not change the world overnight, but it will shine a light on the bigger story. Then you can enjoy a guilt-free cold one poolside on a hot summer day.