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Word of the Day: Sequestration

March 1st, 2013

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President Obama and our lawmakers need to come to a last minute agreement by midnight, or a special law goes into effect called a sequestration.

It’s pronounced see-kweh-stray-shun. And it’s a big word for a big problem.

President Obama called it “just dumb” in his briefing this afternoon.

It will effect every American, including you, though some people more than others.

What’s it about?

The United States government currently spends a lot more money than it takes in. This is a problem.

It’s a little like if you had $100, but you went and spent $20,000 on a credit card. That’s not going to work. You have to pay back the money you borrowed. But you don’t make enough money at your job, not even close. (And you keep spending). So, you need a plan to make it right again. But how?

You take a closer look at your budget — how much money you have and what you spend it on. Things like food, clothes, medicine, car payments, rent, toys, birthday gifts for friends, and donations you make to people who need it even more than you. Lots of other things, too.

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What can you cut out temporarily … and what should you keep? Some things are more important than others and within every household and family tough choices need to be made.

The problem for the U.S. government today is that Democratic leaders and Republican leaders can’t agree on a solution. Or even a compromise. Not even close. They’re not willing to budge on what’s important to them (even though ‘budge’ is in the word ‘budget’).

What they do agree on is that they disagree. That can’t go on forever, so they set a deadline for today to force themselves to come up with a compromise. And if they don’t, then almost EVERYTHING in the federal budget gets cut a little.

That’s not a good solution. Even they say so. But now deadline day is here, it’s not looking good, and they’re blaming each other.

So, what does this mean in the real world?

How does the U.S. government take in money? It provides certain kinds of services to the whole country and pays for them by collecting taxes on part of the money Americans earn.

What does the U.S. spend its money on?  A big chunk of our country’s budget is spent on the military to protect our country, inside and outside of our borders. The government also has employees to make things run smoothly and safely for everyone. There are also programs that help people, especially older people, young kids, people with disabilities, sick people, and people who don’t have enough money for a variety of reasons. These are just a few examples.

How much we should spend (and on what) versus how much we should tax is a huge debate among the president and our lawmakers, and mainly between the two major political parties — the Democrats and Republicans. The Democrats favor taxes, especially on wealthier Americans who can afford it, to help fund services for everyone. The Republicans’ main strategy is to cut back on spending. They also have pretty different viewpoints on how big or small the role of government should be in our lives, but that’s another story!

Regarding the budget, the government is trying to cut $85 billion this year and $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. In the meantime, they’ll keep working on a solution. To see what’s in the budget, you can click here to be taken to the White House’s website . It’s 256 pages!

You’re a kid so how could this possibly be your problem? Are you even going to notice?

For some people the automatic budget cuts could be severe and other people might not notice so much.

The federal government spends money on education and some workers, including teachers, are expected to lose their jobs.

Some federal employees who work at airports like air traffic controllers and security screeners are expected to lose their jobs. For you that might mean it will be a bigger hassle to fly because of longer lines and travel times and busier airports.

If you’re going to a national park, the people who pick up garbage might be out of a job, which means that bears might be more tempted to come sniffing around, making the parks less family friendly. There are many more scenarios , these are just a possible few.

One of the biggest concerns for organizations that advocate for children, including the  Children’s Defense Fund , is that thousands of kids who get assistance from the government to eat healthier food, go to pre-school, get special teachers for extra help, or get loans to pay for more education, might not get this help. These are children who need these services most.

Kathleen King, from the  Children’s Defense Fund , explained to HTE Kids’ News that “some critical programs serving families and children — like Medicaid and food stamps — have been protected from the cuts.” But they urge you to write to your Senators and leaders in Congress to help avoid cuts that are important to you.

Why can’t the president just stop sequestration from happening?  Because leaders from both sides have to agree on a deal. President Obama said today he can’t perform a “Jedi mind meld” to get one. Republicans are frustrated too.

But everyday Americans are the most frustrated because the politicians’ inability to compromise is affecting their lives negatively. To most people, this doesn’t seem right. For many others, including kids, it will have some very real consequences.

What do you think about the sequestration? Is your family talking about it? Do you think it will affect you? We would love to hear from you in the comments section below. 


To learn more about money click here to be taken to the Mint’s website for kids .

To learn more about the Republicans’ position on the sequester you can click here to be taken to their official website .

To see the White House’s position on the sequester including an interactive map, click here .

For a more detailed and excellent explanation of the federal budget process and how it effects children, you can click here for the Children’s Defense Fund website.

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