U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, is demanding members of Congress work together and find a way to avoid the $85 billion in automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts set to take effect March 1.
The spending reductions, known as the sequester, were intended by Congress to be so horrible as to force the Republican-controlled U.S. House and Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate to compromise on a government spending plan.
So far, that hasn't happened and in less than two weeks the nation's economy, military, border patrol, federal employees and schools will feel the pain.
"Time and time again, we had the opportunity to pass a long-term deficit-reduction plan. ... Instead of passing such a plan, we chose to kick the can at every opportunity," Visclosky said. "While we must find ways to responsibly reduce federal spending, sequestration is not the answer."
Visclosky said America's armed forces and border security will be especially hard hit by the "mindless" cuts, which apply across all government spending regardless of importance.
"The safety and security of the American people should not be bargaining chips in high-stakes budget negotiations," he said. "Instead of mindlessly cutting defense and border security programs that keep Americans safe from harm, we must make thoughtful, deliberate decisions about the country's fiscal future."
The military spending reductions include funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and may affect their work on Little Calumet River levees.
"The Corps' flood control, water management, and transportation infrastructure projects have played a vital role in Northwest Indiana's economic development, and to throw the Corps' work on the chopping block without careful consideration is unacceptable," Visclosky said. "These cuts will harm our ability to protect ourselves from natural disasters."
Visclosky said federal funds that pay for teachers, tutors and after-school programs for low-income and special education students also will be hit by the sequester.
Indiana schools will lose $27.88 million and Illinois schools will lose $61.61 million, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate. Nationwide, some 10,500 teachers and aides will lose their jobs.
"Sudden, deep cuts to our schools will hurt our economic recovery in the short term and our economic health in the long term," Visclosky said. "Our schools should be centers of opportunity for young people throughout Northwest Indiana and across the country."
The budget office noted the ripple effect of the spending reductions and the associated 1.4 million job losses will cut the nation's 2013 economic growth in half.
The congressman said he is eager to hear from his Lake, Porter and LaPorte County constituents with their ideas on how to fix the nation's budget problems.
"Now, more than ever, we must have an open, honest dialogue about the fiscal challenges our country faces," Visclosky said.