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AP Finally Admits Sequester Cuts Won’t Do Much

From the Associated Press:

AP caption: In this Dec. 21, 1995, file photo Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, dumps out coal, his so-called Christmas gift to President Clinton, during a news conference about the federal budget on Capitol Hill as Congressional Republicans tried to restart balanced budget talks on day six of the partial government shutdown. President Barack Obama and his officials are doing their best to drum up public concern over the shock wave of spending cuts that could strike the government in just days. So it’s a good time to be alert for sky-is-falling hype.

SPIN METER: In budget fight, sky is falling again

By CALVIN WOODWARD | February 26, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and his officials are doing their best to drum up public concern over the shock wave of spending cuts that could strike the government in just days. So it’s a good time to be alert for sky-is-falling hype.

What’s this? Skepticism from the Administration Associated Press?

Over the last week or so, administration officials have come forward with a grim compendium of jobs to be lost, services to be denied or delayed, military defenses to be let down and important operations to be disrupted. Obama’s new chief of staff, Denis McDonough, spoke of a "devastating list of horribles."

For most Americans, though, it’s far from certain they will have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day if the budget-shredder known as the sequester comes to pass. Maybe they will, if the impasse drags on for months.

This is what passes for news writing in today’s world of journalism.

For now, there’s a whiff of the familiar in all the foreboding, harking back to the mid-1990s partial government shutdown, when officials said old people would go hungry, illegal immigrants would have the run of the of the land and veterans would go without drugs. It didn’t happen…

What an amazing admission. Still, what has taken the AP so long to getting around to admitting this?

To be sure, the [impending] cuts are big and will have consequences. Knowing what they will be, though, is far from a precise exercise…

To be sure these cuts are not big. And they are not even cuts. The CBO says the sequester cuts for 2013 will only amount to at most $44 million. Which is about 1% of our current $3.8 trillion dollar budget.

And there is a lot of improbable precision in administration statements about what could happen: more than 373,000 seriously ill people losing mental health services, 600,000 low-income pregnant women and new mothers losing food aid and nutrition education, 1,200 fewer inspections of dangerous work sites, 125,000 poor households going without vouchers, and much more.

"These numbers are just numbers thrown out into the thin air with no anchor, and I think they don’t provoke the outrage or concern that the Obama administration seeks," said Paul Light, a New York University professor who specializes in the federal bureaucracy and budget. For all the dire warnings, he said, "It’s not clear who gets hurt by this." …

But in practice, through all the layers of bureaucracy and the everyday smoke and mirrors of the federal budget, there is rarely a direct and measurable correlation between a federal dollar and its effect on the ground.

That has meant a lot of tenuous "could happen" warnings by the administration, not so much "will happen" evidence.

The truly sickening thing is that the administration will try to make as many of these ‘horribles’ happen as possible.

However the cuts fall, [Prof Paul] Light at NYU says the Washington Monument ploy, also known as the Firemen First principle, is at work.

It goes like this: Put someone’s budget at risk and the first thing you’ll hear is a threat to close a cherished national symbol or lay off firefighters and police, when in fact there are other ways to cut spending…

In the partial government shutdown during his presidency, Bill Clinton and his officials told some tall tales and sketched dark scenarios that didn’t come to pass… The shutdown played out over two installments totaling 26 days from mid-November 1995 to early January 1996.

National park properties closed (yes, even the Washington Monument), passport and federal mortgage insurance processing were disrupted and toxic waste cleanup stalled as hundreds of thousands of federal workers went idle, paid retroactively later. But states, communities and private groups stepped up to tide over the neediest, keeping Meals on Wheels rolling with their own resources, for example, until Clinton found emergency money to cover the costs. Warnings that Medicare treatment would be withheld proved unfounded, and veterans got their care.

Contractors, who perform many key services for government, kept working for IOUs. A claim by the government that deportations "have virtually ended" was not so.

And every government worker was paid every dime they would have been paid otherwise. All they suffered was a two week paid vacation.

The Justice Department told the story of a Florida gas station rejecting the government-issued credit card of a drug-enforcement agent to illustrate the indignity of it all.

But the reality was humdrum: The card had merely expired.

They lied to try to fear monger? What a shock.

Speaking of which, is another example of their scare tactics running amok, via Reason Magazine:

White House Report Claims Sequestration Will Affect Federal Department That No Longer Exists

Mike Riggs | February 25, 2013

If you want a thorough agency-by-agency rundown of the budget cuts sequestration would deliver, the Office of Management and Budget has you covered. In compliance with The Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, the OMB sent a detailed report to Congress in September 2012. But there’s a small problem with the report: One of the cuts it warns against would affect an agency that no longer exists–and didn’t exist when the OMB sent its report to congress.

The first line item on page 121 of the OMB’s September 2012 report says that under sequestration the National Drug Intelligence Center would lose $2 million of its $20 million budget. While that’s slightly more than 8.2 percent (rounding error or scare tactic?), the bigger problem is that the National Drug Intelligence Center shuttered its doors on June 15, 2012–three months before the OMB issued its report to Congress…

What difference does it make now? The important thing is to whip everyone into a frenzy so that Obama will get his way.

Which is how he always tries to get his way. This is government by hysteria.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Tuesday, February 26th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

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