If you're looking for examples of why sequestration is a dumb way to run the country, look no further than the cutoff of tuition assistance for members of the U.S. military.
Clearly, the nation is obligated to lend support to those who protect and fight for us in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere around the world. Just as clearly, one of the best ways to support them is to help them educate themselves so that they can move successfully into the civilian workforce when their service is over and get on with the rest of their lives as productive members of society.
The military services' tuition assistance program makes good sense and is the right thing to do. Not many individual members of Congress would have the inclination ' or the nerve ' to vote to end such a program. Yet, collectively, that's what Congress has done by letting sequestration take effect.
When President Barack Obama and Congress agreed on the notorious sequester in 2011 to avoid a different self-imposed fiscal emergency ' raising the debt ceiling ' they set it up to be so odious and ridiculous that not even they would stoop so low as to let it come to pass.
Fast-forward to the present, though, and they have indeed gone that low.
It appears to be impossible to overestimate the dysfunction of Congress ' not even Congress itself can do it.
The sequester imposes across-the-board cuts to the Pentagon budget and domestic programs,
The Army, Marines and Coast Guard announced last week that their personnel will not be able to sign up for tuition assistance as part of the services' budget cuts. The Navy and Air Force followed suit this week. Those currently enrolled will receive assistance for this quarter or semester, but not for any courses after that.
About 201,000 soldiers are receiving tuition assistance from the Army this year, totaling about $373 million.
Iraq War veteran J. Perez called the cutoff in tuition assistance "a slap in the face." Perez, a 33-year-old Covina, Calf., resident, served seven years on active duty in the Army before joining the Army Reserves and now is in the National Guard. With three tours in Iraq under his belt, Perez will graduate in June from Cal Poly Pomona with a bachelor's degree in sports medicine and plans to study physical therapy in grad school. It will be harder for him to do that without Army tuition assistance of up to $4,500 per year.
Perez noted that an Army career as an infantryman did not prepare him for civilian jobs outside the area of law enforcement, so college is essential for many vets like him. Perez said he hopes the cessation of assistance is temporary.
So do many Americans. If nothing else, its reinstatement might mean Congress will have done its job.