Chopping Block

Forced limitation of the size of the federal government has meant yelping from many corners about the “vital” programs that might receive less money, should Congress fail to reach an agreement on the federal budget. Unfortunately, it has not led to much discussion about whether all that money is really warranted, or whether some of the federally funded programs are worth the cost.

Representatives of AmeriCorps and VISTA programs in West Virginia say they could suffer because of sequestration. But Stephani Yu, executive director of Volunteer West Virginia, which runs AmeriCorps programs in the state, said, “Our programs are looking at a 5 to 10 percent cut.”

That would amount to cutting just one tutoring program, she admits.

And, as Yu’s title suggests, AmeriCorps is, of course, a volunteer organization. According to its own description, AmeriCorps uses a nationwide network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups. What the loss of some federal funding would really mean is less “money we grant out,” and less for “administrative funding,” according to Yu.

VISTA programs in West Virginia, meanwhile, receive more than $2.1 million in federal funding, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

And, of course, sequestration will not affect the current grant year for VISTA. It already has all the federal money it says it needs, and will not have to do any serious re-thinking until the fall.

If these two programs are any indication of the degree of indispensability of other federal programs receiving the affected discretionary spending, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., might want to revisit his assertion that, “Not even the most anti-government zealot can sequester,” them.

In truth, even if Congress reaches an agreement quickly, many reasonable, intelligent, concerned public officials will have had time to wonder why this country needed to throw approximately $85.4 billion a year on the kinds of programs that found their way onto the sequestration chopping block in the first place.