Automatic cuts hurt more than just defense industry

I read with great interest The Hill’s “Execs: Sequester is a big jobs killer” (July 18). I agree that our national security should remain a top priority, and also recognize the number of jobs created by the defense industry. However, sequestration will reach far beyond the defense side, and its consequences will be much more severe. If the sequester is a defense industry jobs-killer, I offer that it is a lives-killer on the domestic side. 

Under sequestration, funding for nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs would be slashed by 8.4 percent. These are programs that all Americans rely on, including education and job training; public health medical and scientific research; public safety and law enforcement; housing and social services; infrastructure and more. 

School leaders know the importance of investing in a child’s education. Our public schools are already severely underfunded and struggling with the limited resources they have to provide all children the quality education they deserve. If states cannot currently provide even the most basic conditions for learning, what will our schools look like when more than $4.1 billion is cut from the Department of Education under sequestration?  

In addition, the impact of sequestration on women, infants, children and families would be devastating, eliminating nearly $1 billion from these programs. WIC represents less than 0.2 percent of the federal budget, yet provides invaluable nutrition, nutrition education, improved healthcare and access to critical social services for nearly 9 million mothers and young children per month. These cuts would result in more than 750,000 mothers and infants being removed from this program alone. And cuts to critical services for the uninsured and underinsured also would result in an increase of undetected breast and cervical cancer.

Funding for the National Institute for Health (NIH) grants would also be slashed, by $2.6 billion, eliminating research that helps drive down premature births and saves lives. Data show that every $1 invested in research at NIH institutions generates $2.60 in economic activity. In 2011 alone, 432,000 jobs were created from NIH investments, contributing a total of $62.1 billion in new economic activity.  

Sadly, the families that need the greatest support would suffer the most under sequestration. Up to 100,000 children would lose Head Start services, an estimated 80,000 fewer children would have child care assistance, and 14,200 fewer homeless people would lose assistance. 

We all need to take a step back and look at the whole picture. If we do not protect our most vulnerable citizens from drastic cuts to education, healthcare, social and other vital services, then what are we really protecting?

The American Federation of School Administrators, as part of the NDD coalition, urges Congress to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to these essential programs. 

From Diann Woodard, president of the American Federation of School Administrators, Washington, D.C.

Average citizens don’t need such powerful guns 

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution states: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Obviously the need for a state militia has been replaced by the National Guard and Coast Guard, whereby trained military personnel are entrusted with the defense of this country against domestic enemies. Their weapons are tightly controlled and safeguarded.

The only two reasons for a citizen to own a firearm are for hunting or defense of the household from intruders. In either case, ownership of a handgun, shotgun or rifle is more than adequate to satisfy these purposes. There is absolutely no need for any U.S. civilian to own any weapon more powerful or sophisticated than these.

Accordingly, all handguns, shotguns and rifles must be licensed and registered to the degree necessary to match weapon to owner at the click of a computer key. If we had prevented the purchase of more sophisticated weapons, several innocent victims would not have died or been harmed at shopping malls, college campuses and congressional meetings, and now at a movie theater.

It goes without saying that people kill people, whether it be with a gun, automobile or some other means. This incident involving James Holmes appears to be the random act of someone who just plain snapped. We may never learn his true motives, but now are only left to grieve the results of such a mindless act.

From Joe Bialek, Cleveland

Congress out of touch on spending priorities

The Hill’s July 16 article, “Poll: Voters from both parties want to cut defense,” highlights what most Americans have known all along: to reduce the deficit, we need to reduce our bloated Pentagon budget. As a 22-year-old, I can say that my generation wholeheartedly agrees.

But is this simple? Not so much. Congress’s bitter partisanship will certainly translate into a contentious battle over the defense appropriations bill coming to the floor this week, despite the article’s illuminating statistics. 

Congress is designed to represent the American people, to further our well-being and to ensure our overall security. Voting to increase Pentagon spending, while cutting vital social programs, accomplishes none of these things. The American people recognize this. Let’s hope Congress does, too. 

From Shanna Weitz, Hudson, N.H.

—Diann Woodard's letter has been corrected by request to reflect estimated National Institute for Health funding cuts.