At the last moment, our congressional leaders were able to avert a disastrous default on our loan obligations thus bringing a sense of relief to all Americans…or perhaps not. According to a conference call facilitated by the White House yesterday afternoon, the deal calls for the immediate raising of the debt ceiling by roughly $900 billion, which will be offset by the following:

• A $1 trillion cut in discretionary spending over the next 10 years (the bulk of the cuts will come during the later years of that decade when the economy is presumably in much better shape).
• Of those $1 trillion in cuts, $350 billion comes from cuts to the Pentagon’s budget and the rest from non-defense accounts.
• Not including any revenues as part of the deal.
• Another increase in the debt ceiling will be authorized after a 12 member “super” committee (established by the bill) proposes further deficit reductions (an additional $1.2 trillion in cuts).
• The details of how we’ll spend our discretionary and mandatory funds (or where we’ll make additional cuts) in 2012 and 2013 but must be finalized by October 1st.

So…given that details that been hammered out as to where the additional cuts will be placed, that’s what is incredibly so unsettling about all this. What does this mean for federal programs that benefit children, youth and families? What does this mean for low-income and middle class families? What does this mean for our investments in education for the next ten years? What does this mean for creating positive outcomes for our most vulnerable children and youth?

The cuts are coming and while we don’t know exactly where, there is good reason to believe that some of our political leaders will continue to direct these cuts at the communities and issues we advocate for. It is immensely counterproductive to implement discretionary cuts to education and social programs as we continue to drag ourselves out of a recession and while local and state budgets are still strapped themselves.

As we move forward, a couple of things to seriously think about is what can be leveraged during the second stage of all this (including revenues!) and what influence we can have as far as selection of members to the super committee goes. We need to ensure that leaders who truly understand the value behind these social and domestic programs are placed on the committee. During the White House call, administration staffers commented that while this was not President’s first, second, or even third choice for a debt ceiling deal, we can still live within what was agreed upon. Can we really? Should we take that gamble? The cuts we endure today will have drastic consequences for our children, youth and families five, ten, or even fifteen years down the road. And that offers a highly unsettling feeling as this deficit battle wages forward.