Little impact from the sequester

July 2nd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

Before “sequestration” took effect, the Obama administration issued specific — and alarming — predictions about what it would bring. There would be one-hour waits at airport security. Four-hour waits at border crossings. Prison guards would be furloughed for 12 days. FBI agents, up to 14.

At the Pentagon, the military health program would be unable to pay its bills for service members. The mayhem would extend even into the pantries of the neediest Americans: Around the country, 600,000 low-income women and children would be denied federal food aid.

But none of those things happened.

Sequestration did hit, on March 1. And since then, the $85 billion budget cut has caused real reductions in many federal programs that people depend on. But it has not produced what the Obama administration predicted: widespread breakdowns in crucial government services.

The Washington Post recently checked 48 of those dire predictions about sequestration’s impact. Just 11 have come true, and some effects are worse than forecast. But 24 predictions have not come to pass. In 13 cases, agencies said it is too soon to know.

The good thing about this, is no one will believe those who resist spending cuts (or in fact cuts in the rate of increase) much in future, as their claims of impending doom have been found to be Chicken Little doomsdaying.

At the U.S. Geological Survey, for instance, officials had said they would have to shut off 350 gauges that provide crucial predictions of impending floods. They didn’t. The real number is less than 90. What was cut instead?

For one thing, $2.7 million in conference expenses have been chopped since February.

And that would never have been cut, without the sequester.

Targeted spending cuts wee definitely preferable, but as the US Government could not agree on them, then the sequester is a worthwhile backup tool which has started to force even a minimal level of fiscal discipline on the USG.

Last time, it sent 469 scientists. The attendance for this fall’s conference has not been set, but Bales guessed it would be more like 350, for a cost of $350,000. “We are not investing in the future,” Bales said.

I think the future will manage with only 350 people at the conference!

But sequestration has not become a daily hassle for most Americans, and its effects on the economy have been softened by a stronger job market and low interest rates.

“It was more the unquantified predictions of calamity by politicians that were wrong,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics, a research firm.

But now, the Obama administration will seek to make the threat reappear. In October, when the new fiscal year begins, so will another round of sequestration. The administration expects a $109 billion cut.

But no one will listen this time, and the small steps towards fiscal sanity will get bigger.

8 Responses to “Little impact from the sequester”

  1. kowtow (13,197 comments) says:

    No sequestration of the taxpayer funded Obama family jaunt to Africa.

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  2. beautox (500 comments) says:

    Always what happens : when agencies are faced with spending cuts they come out with the most scary scenario possible. Eg, cuts to the fire service – the fire brigade say that this means people will burn in their beds. But what actually happens is the fire-engines are not replaced quite as often, and hoses are fixed instead of being replaced.

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  3. hmmokrightitis (1,910 comments) says:

    “For one thing, $2.7 million in conference expenses have been chopped since February”

    The conference industry in the US is beyond belief. Spoke at one in Vegas a few years back – 5,000 attendees. Ive never seen so many badly dressed americans chasing so many hookers 🙂

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  4. Fletch (9,008 comments) says:

    That didn’t stop the Obama administration from trying to cut back on things to inflict as much pain as possible on people.
    The FAA controller cuts spring to mind (that were causing delays at airports).

    Hours before the federal spending sequester began on March 1, when President Barack Obama predicted that “People are going to be hurt,” he did not add, Trust me, I’ll make sure of it. But he might as well have, as this week’s furloughs of air traffic controllers make obvious. The furloughs reflect panic: Having exaggerated their early predictions that the sequester’s small reduction in spending growth would seriously affect Americans, many Democrats are hell-bent to pre-empt those Americans from drawing two logical conclusions: If one level of cuts is this painless, then maybe we should make … more cuts to expenditures. And while we’re at it, maybe we should ignore the politicians who told us that if Washington lowered the spending growth curve … the Earth will fly into the sun….

    So, what could the administration do to make a reduction of barely 1 percent of actual federal outlays — less than $45 billion of this year’s roughly $3.8 trillion — turn citizens against Republicans who oppose more tax increases? Easy, or so the president’s men and women figured: Cue the air controller furloughs! Let’s stall some flights on the tarmac! Sure enough, travel delays have followed.

    This was quickly curtailed.

    A bill that would end the Federal Aviation Administration’s furlough on air traffic controllers is now on its way to President Obama to sign.

    On Friday, the House passed the measure 361-41.  

    On Thursday night, the Senate passed the legislation after most lawmakers had left the Capitol for a weeklong vacation. 

    Earlier this week, lawmakers from both parties urged the Obama administration to postpone or cancel the furlough of air traffic controllers, with some accusing the FAA of playing politics as the cuts contributed to massive delays at airports across the country.

    The furloughs went into effect Sunday, and the impact was felt almost immediately.

    The FAA reported more than 1,200 delays due to the sequester-tied cuts on Monday. On Tuesday, the agency reported “challenges” at airports in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. On Wednesday, the FAA said there had been close to 900 flights delayed “attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furlough.”

    The FAA claims the furloughs were unavoidable. But lawmakers say the agency could find the money elsewhere, by cutting spending on consultants and grant programs and in other areas.

    Let’s not forget that Obama also cancelled White House tours because of the sequester. These are cuts that the Govt can easily afford, but he has gone out of his way to make it as painful as possible. ie, he can afford a $100 million trip to Africa, but the fireworks for some marine July 4th celebrations have been cancelled.

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  5. davidp (3,865 comments) says:

    Fletch>That didn’t stop the Obama administration from trying to cut back on things to inflict as much pain as possible on people.

    I believe that the administration shut some national parks. But they shut the popular ones, not the unpopular ones in the middle of nowhere. They’re essentially holding the people hostage… give us ALL the money we want or we’ll hurt you.

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  6. Tom Jackson (2,553 comments) says:

    It would be interesting to see what the long term effects are.

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  7. Jeff83 (792 comments) says:

    Ok…this article takes serious liberties with the truth.

    One example, it mentions [i]“There would be one-hour waits at airport security.”[/i] AND THEN [i]”But none of those things happened.[/i]

    Well actually it did happen, but then congress met to pass an immediate amendment when it did (within 3 days!), and increased the funding for air traffic control so it wouldn’t continue to occur. Why? Congress is one of the primary parties who flies all the time.

    Basing any decisions in NZ on a US basis is crazy. There system is beyond broken.

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  8. Fletch (9,008 comments) says:

    What’s funny is that the FAA had a BIGGER budget after the sequester than before.
    Check out the graphs –

    Turns out controllers were running 22 percent over capacity anyway.
    Oh, and the FAA leaders were encouraging staff to all take leave at once to make it hard for the public and prove Obama right.

    But after Mr. Coburn published his letter on his website, FAA regional employees wrote to blow the whistle on their bosses. As one email put it, “the FAA management has stated in meetings that they need to make the furloughs as hard as possible for the public so that they understand how serious it is.”

    Strategies include encouraging union workers to take the same furlough day to increase congestion. “I am disgusted with everything that I see since the sequester took place,” another FAA employee wrote. “Whether in HQ or at the field level it is clear that our management has no intention of managing anything. The only effort that I see is geared towards generating fear and demonstrating failure.”

    Disgusting, that is what it is.

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