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.