Editorial: Another way the sequester fails Americans

Published Mar 21, 2013 at 05:00AM

The sequester forces all kinds of stupid outcomes. The latest was in The Bulletin on Wednesday — 17 soldiers at Central Oregon Community College are going to lose their aid for tuition.

They are members of the Oregon Army National Guard. They used to get from $300 to $1,500 per term. Now they’ll be getting zero from this program. The program is suspended, not permanently gone.

The 17 students plan to keep going to school, which is good. We’re not so sure the same can be said for the other 201,000 soldiers nationwide impacted by the same program cuts.

The crude whack to tuition is the way the sequester works. Federal discretionary spending gets cut across the board by about $85 billion in 2013 with more cuts scheduled to follow. And every day, new annoying impacts are trickled out.

It’s hard to believe that the federal government can’t take a spending cut. But one real problem with the sequester is it doesn’t pick and choose priorities. Couldn’t President Obama and Congress have done better?

There was a Senate GOP plan to give Obama more discretion to pick cuts. Obama said he’d veto it. His office said he found flaws in it. What real effort was ever made to use discretion to make cuts? As Obama has said: “I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending.”

But when the country was going to be stuck with cuts, what’s better? Stick with the automatic, painful cuts or transform it into an opportunity to prioritize?

Compare the need for tuition for those COCC students against the new welcome center planned on the way to Mount Bachelor by the Deschutes National Forest.

The $1.6 million welcome center will be nice for all sorts of reasons. It’s supposed to be pretty, having “high, vaulted ceilings and a Cascadian design.”

It’s going to be a place for the public to get information about the forest, buy maps and permits.

Is that necessary? Is it more important than tuition for soldiers?

No and no.

Wouldn’t it have been better to at least delay it or resize it and find a way to ensure soldiers get their tuition?

Yes.