WASHINGTON -- In the avalanche of ominous warnings about the impact of forced federal spending cuts on South Carolina, perhaps none is more chilling than this:
If Congress and President Barack Obama fail to reach a deal and the cuts start next Friday as scheduled, nearly 20 women in the Palmetto State this year could fail to be diagnosed with breast cancer or cervical cancer because of missed screenings that would have detected them, according to an estimate based on figures from the American Academy of Pediatrics on S.C. screenings and diagnoses over five years.
Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security benefits would not go down, because theyre exempt from the upcoming cuts, but there are more warnings that, while less dire than cancer diagnoses, still are alarming:
The unemployment rate in South Carolina, now at 8.4 percent, could rise to double digits again. An analysis by George Mason University in Virginia suggests the states overall economy could take a $3 billion hit in 2013, one-third of it from the loss of direct federal funds and the rest from private sector firms that supply goods or services for dozens of government programs.
While Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has focused attention on the harm to national security, others have warned they would hurt thousands of South Carolinians with no ties to the military, among them low-income mothers and their young children, university scientists who rely on federal research grants, students at the poorest schools and folks whove been without work for months.
Despite recent pledges by some lawmakers to try to work across the aisle, the deadline fight over the automatic spending cuts extends the partisan struggle that began in summer 2011 with a weeks-long impasse over whether to increase the governments borrowing authority.
The difference this go-round is that Americans blamed Republicans more than Democrats for that impasse, according to polls, and Obama was subsequently re-elected by a decisive margin.
Now Obama, his Cabinet members and congressional Democrats are trying to press the advantage by releasing reams of data that purport to show devastating impacts from the forced cuts. Many Republicans counter that the impacts are exaggerated and the cuts arent so bad.
I dont believe we should drastically reduce our military readiness, lay off police officers and TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents and cut public schools funding to protect tax loopholes for the wealthy, said House Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn of Columbia. South Carolina will suffer significantly due to these draconian cuts.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned Friday of flight cancellations and delays lasting as long as 90 minutes because of furloughs to air-traffic controllers.
The Federal Aviation Administration released a list of air-traffic control facilities that could be closed, among them those at airports in North Myrtle Beach and Florence. A separate list of towers where overnight shifts might disappear includes those at the Columbia and Charleston airports.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu flagged the Savannah River Site in Aiken County, which would lose tens of millions of dollars in funds, as one of a handful of nuclear complexes that would take a big hit.
The Department of Energy runs of the largest environmental cleanup and remediation programs in the world in addressing the legacy of Cold War nuclear weapons production, Chu said. Sequestration would curtail this progress, delaying work on our highest risks at sites in Washington state, Tennessee, South Carolina and Idaho.