Sequester Pain at Pine Ridge

It is summer, and the federal sequester was enacted several months ago.  Because  it hasn’t affected many of us directly yet and may never affect many of us, it’s easy to forget about.

To remind you… the sequester is the 5 percent, across the board budget cut the federal government enacted this year for the purpose of reducing the federal deficit.  It is a pure formula, applicable to all federal programs unless they are considered too important to cut, such as air traffic controllers who got their sequester adjusted.

Usually government programs are enacted to serve a purpose.  The sequester is a federal policy that ignores purpose or meaning or need.

The reason I’ve been thinking about the sequester is that two articles appeared in the New York Times that reminded me about some places being devastated by the sequester.  Like the little Montana town where I grew up, these places are along the Highline, Route 2, that runs across Montana up near the Canadian border.  They are cold in the winter, far away and hence easily forgotten, and among the poorest places  in America.  They are Fort Peck, Fort Belknap, Rocky Boys, and the Blackfeet Nation in Browning.

The sequester is devastating America’s American Indian Reservations.  One of the ways this is happening is the slashing of Impact Aid, the federal funding stream intended to replace the local property taxes that generally are used to fund the public schools.  Impact Aid funds education on Indian Reservations and in communities on military bases where there is less private property to be taxed.

This week’s New York Times takes you to Pine Ridge, South Dakota, in Annie Lowrey’s news story, Pain on the Reservation.  The second article, among the most moving I’ve read in awhile, is an opinion piece by retired North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan.  In Broken Promises  he, too, describes a visit to Pine Ridge, and cuts that are devastating the public schools.


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