April 27, 2013

Our View: Sequester pain goes beyond airport lines

It's nice that senators can work together once in a while, but we hope they're not done.

Members of the U.S. Congress climbed out of their partisan trenches and passed a bill that would end furloughs for air traffic controllers, stop unnecessary delays at airports and save the summer tourism season from a smothering wet blanket. We probably should be grateful that senators and representatives were able to put the country ahead of party and get something done. But why stop now?

click image to enlarge

A man checks to see if a flight is on time at the Portland International Jetport on Monday. Congress has passed a bill to end sequester-driven staffing shortages that caused delays and cancellations in Portland and across the country. But lawmakers haven't said anything about easing funding cuts that affect hungry children and elderly shut-ins.

2013 Press Herald File Photo/Tim Greenway

The furloughs and delays were forced by the sequester, a package of across-the-board budget cuts that were supposed to strike so deeply to programs people cared about that Congress and the president would have no choice other than come together on a deficit reduction deal. The cuts were supposed to hurt and they were supposed to spread the pain around.

No one thought it would be a good idea to cut the FAA budget. But the sequester was designed to put together so many bad ideas that Congress would be forced to act.

It didn't work, however. Congress did not act and let the cuts that no one would want to go into effect go into effect. So, while it's good news that Congress wants to help the air travelers, they are not the only people who depend on government services that were cut. Many of those people are experiencing more than inconvenience.

As a result of the sequester, family violence protective services are losing support. So are programs like the Women, Infants and Children nutrition services, Head Start early childhood education and Meals on Wheels for home-bound seniors.

We haven't seen Congress drop everything to help battered women, hungry children or elderly shut-ins. Somehow air travelers come first.

Maybe its because people who fly for business or pleasure are more likely to be well off and vote than someone who won't eat unless a volunteer brings him lunch.

Or because airline delays are made-for-television news stories that no station can resist. Or because most members of Congress fly home every weekend and are acutely aware of the mood of fellow travelers.

But none of these are good reasons to take a piecemeal approach to ending the sequester pain for some Americans while letting others suffer.

So, if action on this bill is a promise of how the House and Senate will do business when they are back in session, that is good news. But if this is just a way to ease pressure to make a deal, it is nothing to cheer about.

 

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