Airports nationwide saw massive amounts of delays and cancellations last week after the Federal Aviation Administration’s funds were cut, causing several air traffic control towers to be shut down and furloughs to be put into place.
In response, congressional Republicans began to dodge any and all responsibility. Speaker of the House John Boehner coined a Twitter hashtag blaming President Obama for the flight delays, and other GOP leaders took to social networks to achieve the same task. In his weekly Internet address, Obama explained that the cuts are affecting U.S. travelers, but reprimanded Republicans, saying that “maybe because they fly home each weekend, the members of Congress who insisted that these cuts take hold finally realized that they actually apply to them too.”
Many Republicans believe that other programs should have received sequester cuts and that the FAA should have been left alone. However, the laws pertaining to the sequester clearly indicate that many programs are cut, all by an even amount. Other programs that are experiencing similar spending cuts are “Head Start,” nonprofit cancer clinics and “Meals on Wheels.”
Allow me to introduce you to 97-year-old Joanne Jones. She and her husband worked blue collar jobs their entire lives, and invested all of their savings into the stock market. However, in 2008 when the stock market collapsed, Jones and her husband lost all of their savings and much of their assets. Shortly after, Jones’ husband died, leaving her to fend for herself. Jones primarily relies on “Meals on Wheels” for food. However, due to the spending cuts put into place by the sequester, Jones may not receive her food anymore, leaving her to go hungry.
The character introduced above is not a real person. However, she represents one group of people that is most affected by these spending cuts. Those depending on “Meals on Wheels” are not the only people being neglected due to the sequester. The New York Times reports that provisions for “Head Start” are being cut, causing 70,000 children from low-income families to be without pre-Kindergarten education. Additionally, several cancer clinics are losing federal funding, causing them to stop or delay chemotherapy treatments to patients.
All of this comes down to the idea of luxury versus necessity. I’m sure that the hundreds of millions of people who travel by airplane every year would like to board their planes as quickly as possible rather than waiting for a few extra hours. Meanwhile, there are people going without services that they need. Cancer patients who don’t get their chemotherapy have little to no hope of surviving. Low-income individuals who cannot receive food from “Meals on Wheels” will go hungry. Even the children who cannot receive preschool education are being hurt by not being able to attend Head Start. Preschool provides children with the basic skills they need in school and life: socialization, reading, counting, etc. Education should be a right for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status.
As a country, there are plenty of voices who stand up for the middle and upper classes and their needs, which is why many government leaders rushed to attempt to change the distribution of the spending cuts put into place by the sequester when air travelers began to complain about airport delays. Meanwhile, there are others who really need help, yet fail time and time again to get the government’s attention. Like I said, it’s the choice between luxury and necessity, and those who are in times of need should be advocated far more than those who simply want.