In the Pittston Area High School gym, Cartwright and half a dozen Harrisburg Democrats and labor union leaders spoke against federal spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Sequestration was the act’s unhappy ending that was supposed to urge both political parties to reach an agreement to reduce the nation’s debt.
Cartwright said it was doomed from the start.
“The only way to go forward was to put sequestration in place,” Cartwright said from the podium. “A ticking time bomb.
“The bomb went off,” he said, “and we’re paying the price here in Northeastern Pennsylvania — a 10-year kick in the gut.”
Most of those attending wore union jackets or carried union signs. Cartwright, a freshman representative, said the impending April 6 furlough to take place at Tobyhanna Army Depot this year inspired him to hold the rally. He said maybe, if the people make enough noise, they might get some attention.
Tony Ferreira, president of the American Federation of Government Employees and retired depot employee, said that when a prison guard was killed last month in the Canaan federal prison, Wayne County, it got the government rethinking how it should fund prisons and improve guard staffing.
Ferreira questioned why it should come to death before the government learns that budget cuts are a poor solution. “We’re not saying that there’s no fat,” Ferreira said. “Cut out the fat … Just don’t cut everything across the top.”
Ferreira, 55, retired March 3, along with his friend and colleague Joe Iglio, when they heard about the pending furlough. They said they left hoping they could save two jobs for younger employees.
Although he could have retired at 50, said Ferreira, he had intended to continue working at the depot.
State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, did not discredit the national debt, which according to a report from the website, www.treasurydirect.gov, stands at about $16.6 trillion. Elected officials in Harrisburg and Washington must first compromise on their party-driven ideologies, he said; then they need to look for money in the right places.
Cartwright said there is a common fallacy that continued government spending will bury the country deeper into debt.
With finality, he said that slashing jobs will not revive the budget.
“It doesn’t take a Nobel laureate to figure that out,” Cartwright said.