Many people may think all the talk about sequesters is just a lot of arcane Washington nonsense. The sequestration became effective at midnight March 1. (Yes, I have been obsessed with it!) I’m so angry and frustrated that our Congress and President could not get together and agree on how to deal with the U.S. budget. We’ll face more drama on March 27 as we hold our collective breath to see whether Congress approves the continuing resolution needed to keep government running. (The resolution is the mechanism used to approve budgets for U.S. government programs and agencies that have budget approvals ending March 27.) As a person who has responsibility for managing a budget and the paychecks of thousands of people who work for our School (including students), I’m infuriated that the government cannot do the same—manage.
There’s an illusory calm following sequestration. We’re all still here, so it’s easy to delude ourselves into thinking it wasn’t such a big deal. However, the effects will roll out in waves. Some agencies will make decisions to furlough employees, and that may happen next week or over months. The husband of a woman I know already has gotten his notice. National Institutes of Health staff will make difficult but perhaps different choices about what grants to pay or not pay and how they will deal with cuts that may range from 6 percent to above 8 percent of their permanent budgets. Some of our faculty who expected to receive grants won’t get them, the staff they thought they could keep employed won’t have jobs, and the communities in which they live will have more unemployed people. We’re all connected, and the Congressional representatives who say It’s just 2.4 percent, and it shouldn’t be a big deal are just plain wrong. It is a big deal, and they should have done their jobs. As citizens, we should have been much louder and more forceful. We’re all in this together. In a fragile economy, there aren’t any islands.