Sequester Will Hit Communities Of Color Hard

Derek Pugh

Most of the general public may not feel the immediate shock waves of the manufactured ticking time bomb Congress set to go off at midnight Friday, but individuals relying the most on local and federal programs will feel it first.

At the epicenter of the man-made disaster known as the sequester are communities of color, who will fall through the gaps in our system as government services begin to be ripped apart. People of color are already disproportionately hit the hardest, less likely to have employment security and health insurance, and still trying to recover from the recession.

The details were explained today at a forum sponsored by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Already 70 percent of the $2.75 trillion in deficit reduction have come from cuts in vital programs and social services. If conservatives have their way, starting Friday these programs will be reduced by another $42.7 billion in a seven-month time span. African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans will end up shouldering a disproportionate share of the burden of these reductions in services.

Health programs for the Centers for Disease Control will be cut, causing 25,000 low-income and high-risk women to go without breast and cervical cancer screenings. The government would perform 424,000 fewer HIV tests, at a time when African Americans account for an estimated 44 percent of all new HIV infections, and community health centers would serve 900,000 fewer patients. Funding for WIC, the nutrition program for women and children, would also be cut, ending services for more than 600,000 women, infants, and children.

The overall reduction for health funding on the local level varies state by state. For example, those living in New York, California, and Florida will see some of the sharpest cuts, while people living in Montana and Wyoming will see some of the smallest. Not so surprisingly, the states affected the most have some of the highest percentages of people of color.

Funding programs that minorities rely on the most is imperative to not only the well-being of our communities, but also the health of our economy. The economic burden of inequality is astounding. Eliminating health inequalities and premature death would have saved the United States $1.24 trillion between 2003 and 2006. Yet, the House Republican budget proposals call upon those with the least to shoulder the burden of deficit reduction so the wealthiest can keep their tax breaks and loopholes. Then again, when 89 percent of your political party is white, it isn’t so tough.

Forcing the government to decide what limb to chop off next is egregious disregard to human needs and foolish policy. The sequester is nothing more than a vehicle for inequality – racial as well as economic – that will strangle our economy, cost more than a million jobs, and benefits only a select few. As a nation, we can’t afford to compromise our values. It is in our best economic interest to do what’s morally correct—repeal the sequester, raise the revenue we need, and reduce the deficit the right way.

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