The congressional GOP, like the captain of the Titanic, put women and children first.

The Titanic’s captain was trying to save people’s lives. In contrast, House Republicans, having contrived the sequester — $85 billion in federal budget cuts — are steering straight for that iceberg. And when the economy hits it, when the sequester cuts are fully implemented, women and children will go down first.

Sure, the sequester cuts are bad for pretty much everyone. But they’re especially harmful to women and their children.

Why? More women then men depend on the public services that face cuts. Making matters worse, more women than men work in the public sector, so more women than men will face furloughs or lose their jobs. 

Oh, they wrote the bill Sequester, to end the sea of red.

They said without these cuts, the debt would crush us dead.


But when the cuts were triggered, moms and kids were hurt instead.

It was sad when the deep cuts came down. 

Here in Maine, where 39 percent of the state budget comes from federal sources, cuts to programs serving women and kids will be devastating.

According to the Center for American Progress, nondefense discretionary spending cuts in Maine will equal $35 million. Across all the affected programs, the cuts average 5.3 percent of federal discretionary grants.

It was bad, so bad. It was bad, so bad.

It was bad when the deep cuts went down (to the bottom of the …)


Mothers and aunts, little children lost their pants.

It was sad when the deep cuts came down.

Even though domestic violence comprises 40 percent of all assaults reported in Maine, crucial services for the victims of domestic violence — underfunded to begin with — face sequester-induced cuts.

Family Violence and Protection Services will see a budget cut of $84,395, and as a result, 20 percent of Maine’s domestic violence victims (1,038 people) won’t be served. Additionally, 2,538 local crisis calls won’t be answered.

Columnist Bill Nemitz recently described the personal costs of sexual violence and pointed readers to sources of support (“Fugitive rapist’s arrest hits many nerves,” April 3). Tough luck, ladies, the phones are gonna keep on ringing.

All told, programs addressing child care and women’s health will be cut by more than $500,000. Cuts to the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program will trim program rolls by 1,800. Local food banks are already stretched thin — now they’ll have even more mouths to feed.


The child care assistance program faces cuts of $415,000. So there’ll be less help for low-wage working moms and no help at all for moms who want to work but can’t, because at the current minimum wage, no child care is cheap enough. 

“Mom, are you still standing? Well, watch out.” 

The sequester will cut $121,000 from breast and cervical cancer screening. So 480 fewer of you won’t know if you’ve got cancer.

If you do have cancer, and it goes undetected, you’ll need hugely expensive treatments. An additional $61,000 in cuts to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services mean that 1,500 fewer people (375 women and 1,125 men) won’t be tested for HIV.

Too many people look at the dollars cut from various programs and say, “It’s no big deal. It’s only $60,000 here, $50,000 there.” But look at the actual harm to actual people. Sequester could hardly be more penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Women do the lioness’ share of unpaid elder care, so cutting programs that provide nutrition assistance for grandma and grandpa will make women’s lives more difficult while making seniors worse off.


The $204,500 in sequester cuts for senior nutrition is a serious financial kick in the pants to Meals on Wheels. There will be fewer meals delivered and fewer group meals prepared. Even before these cuts, 12 percent of Maine’s seniors were at risk for hunger. Now even more people will be hungry, and the providers of elder care will have to do more shopping and more food preparation. 

They cut past fluff down to the core, cut basic programs and then even more.

They had to know these cuts would make more families poor.

Yes, they cut the funds for housing, for fuel and even food.

It was sad when the deep cuts came down. 

What else is on the chopping block?


The sequester doesn’t discriminate by age. Programs for early childhood care and education will be hit hard. Across the state, Head Start is closing classrooms. Head Start cuts of $2.4 million will lead to 82 jobs lost and 393 fewer children served.

From the State House to the Chamber of Commerce, business leaders are bellyaching about a shortage of skilled workers and the need to improve high school graduation rates. They must not know that low-income/at-risk kids who attend Head Start have better educational attainment than do similar kids who don’t have a Head Start experience.

Fewer Mainers will graduate from high school and the shortage of skilled workers will get worse. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. 

Repeat chorus 

Did I mention that 740 fewer kids will be vaccinated for measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza and hepatitis B?

Guess who’ll miss days of work to care for them when they get sick? Yep. Mom. You can be sure the cost in lost work time will exceed the $51,000 that won’t be spent on these immunization programs. 


Repeat chorus 

Sequester-induced cuts to K-12 education programs are equally harsh. More than 16,000 students in Maine will be adversely affected.

According to the Maine Education Association, cuts to special education programs will eliminate 39 teaching jobs, leaving 1,445 kids without the support they need.

Total K-12 job losses will be about 200, focused mostly in the poorest school districts, where students need more attention, not less.

On top of that, about 1,100 students won’t get career and technical training. And nearly 1,000 teachers won’t participate in teacher improvement activities.

Cuts at the college level hit federal work-study and financial aid programs. More students will take on more debt as work-study positions are scaled back, and fewer grants are available. Remember, it’s the 21st century. Education is more important than ever. 


The cuts sure slammed the weak, now their future’s very bleak.

Stand with me, friends, don’t turn the other cheek.

Is there a name for all the cuts we see? It’s called “austerity.”

It was sad when the deep cuts came down. 

But wait. How did we get to a place where cutting the federal deficit is more important than educating our kids? Or feeding our families? Or heating our homes? 

They threw the poor folks over, in the dark and stormy sea.


Boehner should be singing “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”

Yes, the people wept and cried as their paychecks up and died.

It was sad when the great cuts came down. 

Quick review. Despite mass unemployment — there are 26.8 million unemployed or underemployed people in the U.S. today — politicians are obsessing about deficit spending. “The deficit is out of control,” they warn. As House Speaker John Boehner put it, “The American people know you can’t continue to spend money that you don’t have.”

In a narrow way, he’s right. You can’t continue to spend money you don’t have. But the federal government can. When politicians stop likening the federal debt to the balances on consumer credit cards, then we’ll make progress toward understanding how to finance the very things we want and need.

The national debt, unlike the balances on consumers’ credit cards, actually creates the financial assets that make “we the people” better off.


Consumers’ credit card debts are the balances — the credit — owed to credit card issuers, a relationship wholly within the private sector. By the simple and elementary rules of accounting, the internal liabilities of the private sector are exactly canceled by the assets of the private sector.

The assets of credit card issuers increase with the increase in consumers’ debts. Consequently, there’s no overall growth of financial assets. If the pluses in my column are exactly matched by the minuses in yours, how can aggregate financial assets increase?

For private-sector financial assets to grow without private-sector liabilities growing, too, new liabilities, taken on by some entity outside the private sector, have to come into being. That would be the function of federal deficits. Every new dollar of the federal deficit is, also by definition, a new dollar of private nongovernment assets. 

See America’s not Cyprus, it’s not Greece or even Spain.

If it’s dollars versus euros, the outcome’s really plain.

We can fill our own till, they need help to pay the bill.


It was bad when the deep cuts came down. 

The private sector’s financial assets can only get larger when (and if) the liabilities of the public sector — the federal government — get larger, too. The public sector’s debt (the accumulation of deficits from years past) exists as interest-bearing bonds. Bond owners in the private sector receive this interest. They (we, us) are better off. Wealthier. Have more income.

Sequester icebergs, not deficits (or bankruptcy or hyperinflation), are the real threat to our economic ship. Cutting the deficit — or worse, seeking to go further and reduce the national debt — is simply a recipe to shrink the financial assets of the rest of us (our retirement portfolios, our send-the-kids-to-college funds, our financial nest eggs for future personal rainy days).

Deficit dollars educate our children, support women and feed the elderly. They’re our frontline defense against ever-expanding misery, hardship and privation. Growing the deficit now (not forever, but now) is the best way to protect women and children. 

Oh, the moral of this story is as plain as you can see.

Our budget is held hostage by the GOP.

Our cities and our state deserve a better fate.

So get mad at all those cuts that trickle down.

Susan Feiner is a professor of economics and women and gender studies at the University of Southern Maine. 

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