- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Here we are, Day 6 of the sequester, and bracing for the impact in St. Mary’s County. It’s a bit like knowing that an earthquake has hit and waiting for the tsunami to roll in.
But this was not an act of God. It was an act of Congress. And Congress has the power at any time to replace these deep, across-the-board budget cuts.
There is no indication, however, that Congress is close to doing so.
And so in a matter of weeks it appears the wave will hit St. Mary’s. Beginning in April, civilian federal employees at Patuxent River Naval Air Station may be working 32 hours a week instead of 40, and their paychecks will be cut by 20 percent. Defense contracting firms are facing similar cuts, and the ripples will reach out to every corner of the economy of St. Mary’s.
In preparation, the Fleet and Family Support Center is offering a seminar to help Pax River employees adjust to their reduced financial fortunes. It’s called “Managing Your Finances and Stress During a Possible Furlough.” The first session is this evening, and another is scheduled March 21, with preregistration at 301-342-4911.
How long this will go on and how tough it will be for these thousands of families cannot be predicted.
Again, Congress could replace the sequester at any time. It is possible that after a handful of unpaid furlough days, like those ordered for state employees and others during the height of the recession, paychecks could be restored.
But no one here can count on that. In fact, people can count on very little from the federal government they work for directly or under contract.
It’s true that St. Mary’s has benefitted enormously from the federal money that has come our way for decades. This has become a prosperous community funded by other people’s tax dollars.
And with two wars winding down and the federal budget drowning in red ink, it is inevitable that military spending will continue to be reduced and the defense industry here will contract. That was happening already, before the sequester.
But it shouldn’t be happening in this irrational, harmful way. The civilians who work here in support of Pax River, often in difficult and demanding jobs, and not always for a great deal of money, deserve better.
We understand that the government can’t solve everyone’s problems. But the least we can expect is that Congress doesn’t willfully create new ones.