It’s been a good start to the year for California. We lead the nation in job creation. Our budget is balanced. Unemployment is dropping. Prop 30 stopped devastating cuts to our schools. While we still have a lot of work to dig out from the recession caused by Wall St. greed and excess, there’s no question that California is enjoying a major comeback.
But the California comeback could be short-lived if Republicans in Washington, D.C. continue this insane game they are playing with the so-called “sequestration” cuts. These automatic spending cuts would sap $500 million in federal funding from California putting priorities like education, health care and public safety at risk. The cuts could cost California 225,000 jobs.
According to a report released by the White House today, if the sequestration cuts are allowed to take effect, California will lose approximately $87.6 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 1,210 teacher and aide jobs at risk. Another $63 million in funding for children with disabilities will evaporate, leading to hundreds of job cuts for teachers, aides and staff who help those children. In addition, we’ll lose vital job placement and training funds, millions in military funding for our state’s bases and funds for crime prevention (including programs that help reduce domestic violence) and public health.
And these ill-advised cuts hit big states like California and New York much harder than anywhere else.
You’ll notice, these cuts have very little impact on big corporations and the wealthiest among us. Instead it’s working-class and middle-class Californians who are being asked to pay the price for the Republicans’ insistence on cutting Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare benefits to pay for tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthiest 2 percent.
Sound like déjà vu? It seems like every time we have one of these fiscal crises of Congress’ making, Republicans are willing to throw middle-class families under the bus to protect their wealthy friends. It’s time for the political gamesmanship to end and responsible governing to begin. A cuts-only approach to deficit reduction spells disaster for our economy nationally and in California.
Let’s hope commonsense prevails in the next few days and Republicans in Congress do their job. If, instead, they insist on inflicting damage to working people through these unnecessary and crude cuts, Californians – and all Americans – need to hold them accountable for their actions in the next election.
Steve Smith is Communications Director at the California Labor Federation, which represents more than 2 million union members in manufacturing, retail, construction, hospitality, public sector, health care, entertainment and other industries in the state of California.