The sequester must be stopped before its too late

So it’s come to this. Thanks to never-ending partisan brinksmanship, the toxic atmosphere of Washington, D.C., is about to blanket us all. Say hello to the disastrous policy known as sequestration. It starts March 1.

It’s not really a policy. It’s more like a national suicide attempt.

Enacted last year, the sequester mandates $1.2 trillion in indiscriminate, across-the-board federal spending cuts over the next 10 years. Other than Social Security and Medicare, practically nothing is spared: defense, social services, the environment, food safety, airport and border security, the FBI — all are on the chopping block, with a fiscal ax slicing $85 billion between March and September alone.

When passed in 2011, this was intended as a poison pill so toxic Congress would do anything to avoid it. Incredibly, the strategy did not work, at least not yet, and now the sequester is upon us with no last-minute rescue from the cavalry in sight.

Our story this week on page 4 details how several Bay Area Jewish social service agencies are bracing for impact. Nobody knows precisely how the sequester will hit these organizations and the vulnerable populations they serve, but their executives agree they will be hit hard.

With the sequester likely to crush the fragile economic recovery under way, and trigger an unacceptable uptick in unemployment, those vulnerable populations are sure to grow nationwide. A study conducted by George Mason University predicted the sequester would put more than 2.1 million jobs at risk, most of them in small businesses. It will hurt all of us — meat prices will soar as fewer federal inspectors are available, airport lines will grow as TSA is forced to cut back, and on and on.

Once the gains of the recovery slip into reverse, we could head back into recession. That would cause yet another layer of misery on top of the chaos we face. It’s a race to the bottom we cannot allow.

We would urge you to contact your congressional representatives, but at this point we’re skeptical about even that. Nobody in Washington wants the sequester, yet apparently none of our political leaders are willing to budge from their rigid ideological positions to stop it.

There may be real villains in this story, but we’re way past the point of blame. It’s time for our elected officials to stop the posturing and do what’s right for this country.

As Jewish Family and Children’s Services director Anita Friedman warned, we cannot allow this great country to turn into Bangladesh. The sequester must be prevented now.