Sequester, the Arts, and Seniors

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So our Congress last year, afraid of heights, pulled itself away from the “fiscal cliff” and compromised on “sequester.” While it sounds like monks retreating to solitude, it actually means lawmakers delayed from January to March 1 cutting the federal budget.

Anti-Sequestration-Letter-8.22.12-460x250If Congress, milking the media, can’t find some way to avoid “sequester,” here’s how much gets chopped this Friday: $42.7 billion in defense cuts (a 7.9 percent cut); $28.7 billion in domestic discretionary cuts (5.3 percent); $9.9 billion in Medicare cuts (2 percent); $4 billion in other mandatory cuts (5.8 percent to nondefense programs, and 7.8 percent to mandatory defense programs).

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The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will lose $12 million. That’s just a sniff to the Department of Homeland Security’s $59 billion budget. But to the NEA, it’s a slash of 8.2% to its $148 million bank account for 2013. That’s about 10% of its $115 million in grants from 2012.

If you’re an elderly artist, or just an elderly American, Congress is also looking at jabbing you beyond the $9.9 billion in Medicare cuts. The American Association of Retired People (AARP) has notified its 39 million members that the Senate could vote to cut Social Security’s “cost of living adjustment by adopting a so-called ‘chained CPI’ as early as this week. AARP’s email added:

The Senate is debating how to stop the automatic budget cuts scheduled to take effect on Friday – and some have proposed a chained CPI amendment that would slash Social Security by $112 billion over the next ten years as part of a deal.

This $112 billion Social Security cut, in the form of a reduced cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) every year, would cost the average senior over $2,000 in the first 10 years alone. What’s worse, the cut would increase with each passing year. That means every year, it will get harder and harder for millions already struggling to pay for groceries, health care or heating bills.

Congress’s salaries won’t be affected, because the Constitution’s 27th Amendment forbids lawmakers from voting themselves raises or salary cuts until after the next election. But their office budgets, committee staff and leadership offices will receive the same across-the-board cuts as any other discretionary, non-defense spending.