KATIE ZERR: Voters will remember come November


As 2013 comes to a close, it will be remembered as one of the most contentious years in modern political history. With good reason.

Although the end of the year brought on a bit of compromise and a ray of light, 2014, an election year, promises to be worse than last year.

Hopefully, the political games that Democrats and Republicans will play in 2014 won’t be as harmful as those they played in 2013. The voters will have many hours of pitching and mud throwing to live through before the election. They will also have many things to keep in mind while deciding for whom to vote.

2013 cost the many Americans, mostly those in the middle and lower classes, because of decisions made in Congress. These are decisions that should be kept in mind when going to the polls.

There was a glimmer of hope at the end of 2013 with a budget deal that relieves just about a third of the sequestration cuts. Unfortunately, those cuts along with other cuts enacted in the name of fiscal responsibility amounted to a year of fiscal austerity that took money out of the economy, slowed growth and cut job creation, according to recent studies.

The fiscal cliff was the first crisis that cost the American people. While the deal made between the White House and Congress avoided some major tax increases that would have put a real drag on economic growth, it did cut other tax credits that cost Americans extra money in their paychecks.

Sequestration cuts mandated $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts until Oct. 1, and according to the most recent estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), made in early 2013, sequestration was expected to cost around 750,000 jobs that would have been created or retained if not for the cuts. It also estimated that sequestration along with fiscal tightening would cost about 1.25 percentage points in economic growth from the fourth quarter of 2012 to the fourth quarter of 2013. The CBO also estimated that without sequestration, the economy would have been expected to grow faster in 2013 by about 0.6 of a percentage point.

Studies have shown the sequester cuts also raised the unemployment rate by 0.8 percent.

The government shutdown in October was another example of how actions in Congress hurt the American people. During the 17-day shutdown, more than 800,000 federal workers were furloughed without pay, and nonessential federal offices were closed.

According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the shutdown cost the United States an estimated 0.25 percent of growth in the fourth quarter, or about $10 billion.

Another cut that studies show has a negative impact on the U.S. economy is the cut in benefits families receive on the SNAP (food stamp) program. Labeled as a perpetuator of laziness and theft from the government through cheating, certain segments of Congress have demonized the program. In November benefits were cut by $5 billion affecting 47 million Americans, including veterans of the armed services and their families.

According to some studies, the result of these cuts could mean a cost to the economy of more than $5 billion. Studies show that for every $1 offered through the SNAP Program, $1.74 other money is put into the economy of this country. The money these families save on groceries is spent in other segment of our economy. For example on clothes for children or school supplies.

Despite what some in Congress would like us to think, not everyone on the SNAP Program is a jobless parasite, who, as long as there is assistance, will be happy to live off the government and never work a day in their adult life.

Yet, in spite of the Congressional moves toward fiscal responsibility this year, the economy grew at a relatively fast pace of 4.1 percent in the third quarter of 2013, up from 1.1 and 2.5 percent in the previuos quarters.  Although some studies show the economy grew by a much lower 1.8 percent.

Some Americans are not feeling the economic growth because acts of Congress have hurt them.

There will be many factors to consider in November, including things that have not yet happened in Washington. Hopefully the voters will have longer memories and about as much compassion as their representatives in Congress.




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