The Spectacle Blog

Obama’s Sequestration Narrative Collapsing on Itself

By on 5.3.13 | 3:04PM

Earlier this week, Tea Party Patriots described how President Obama blinked first on the GOP/Democratic showdown over sequestration’s “cuts” to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Democrats had hoped the President would insist the “cuts” hurt as much possible to force a replacement deal that included tax increases, as well as to bolster their argument that reductions in future expectations of spending (known in D.C. as “spending cuts,” though they are far from being so) are harmful to the American people.

As is widely known by now, the President kowtowed to the GOP’s insistence that the FAA be given flexibility with the sequester in order to prevent inconveniences to travelers, especially Members of Congress.

The implications of this showdown have not gone unobserved by lobbyists, bureaucrats, and politicians supporting nearly every other agency being impacted by sequestration. Politico has a partial rundown of the agencies being looked at for changes post-sequestration:

  • FBI, ATF, federal prosecutors, and the Department of Justice as a whole, especially in light of the Boston bombing. Attorney General Holder appears to be making it a priority.
  • First responders and “anti-terrorism officials” are being supported by “Congressional appropriators,” including Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). The fertilizer plant explosion was cited as one reason to spend more “on grant programs for firefighters.”
  • Senator Dan Coats (R-IN), the top homeland security appropriator for the GOP, “wants to make sure domestic security needs are fully funded.”
  • David Patton, executive director of the NY public defense office “handling the Abu Ghaith trial,” points out that cutting public defender funding is not the way to go because “this is constitutionally mandated,” meaning – according to Politico – that “all suspects have the right to a defense.” (Check out Tea Party Patriots’ post on this particular aspect of sequestration here.)
  • TSA has “cut overtime and put a freeze on new hires,” and Customs & Border Control has cut “office overtime pay,” which means “longer wait times for Americans and foreigners” coming into America. Wait times at some places are being reported as averaging “two to three hours, with others as high as four-plus hours.”
  • The FAA is claiming “149 small and medium-sized airport control towers” will shut down on June 15. A bipartisan pair of Senators is trying to change this. (See Tea Party Patriots’ brief commentary on this discussion back in March here.)
  • The Center for Disease Control may be up for becoming a “’pet cause” if a deadly illness or another public health issue arises, especially since nearly $200 million has been “cut” in “immunization and respiratory disease programs, as well as…public health preparedness and response efforts.”
  • Research at the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation is being impacted because of sequestration, which concerns scientists. “Cut too much, they say, and the U.S. may miss out on critical discoveries and lose experts to foreign competition.”
    • Politico cites examples of research being impacted, including breast cancer prevention and “a genomics project,” as well as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “work on cancer research.” There is bipartisan support for returning funding to NIH.
    • Various media outlets have reported the “sequestration is being applied to Medicare payments for expensive cancer drugs,” which means advocates for Medicare, including politicians, will likely be coming out of the woodwork. The administrator of Northeast Georgia Cancer Care says the problem is significant. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) has already introduced legislation to prevent these “cuts” from continuing, as Tea Party Patriots reported some time ago.
  • National Parks are taking hits as well, including one park having shut down “three of its least-used campgrounds as well as two picnic areas.” Additionally, “park officials will take longer to clear roads and trails after storms” with fewer staff members. Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are no longer allowing visits after 5 p.m.
  • Liberals are heavily focused on “cuts” to “schools and popular social programs.” They are angry that the FAA fix ignores low-income children who are facing Head Start funding cuts, or lost unemployment benefits for the jobless. This is something the New York Times focused on in a recent editorial, in partial agreement with Tea Party Patriots’– namely, that while certain federal programs should be cut or eliminated, they should be of lower priority than duplicated spending or simple waste.
  • School districts have faced some funding losses, but the major impacts won’t be felt for some time, so pressure there is relatively low. Additionally, Politico reports that some superintendents saw sequestration coming, and so took appropriate measures:

Brian Woods, superintendent of the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, says his district set aside $3 million in operating funds months ago to cover any Title I losses in case the sequester took place. “We knew that this was at least possibly going to happen,” he said. “You’ve got to plan for what may be, rather than try to guess.”

Among this bureaucratic and lobbyist nightmare, two things stick out:

First, school districts that set aside money last year to cover sequestration did what many states, businesses, and families do across the country: set aside a “rainy day” fund, of sorts. One has to wonder if this common-sense fiscal decision was made because schools are held accountable largely at the state and local level, not the unaccountable and overly bureaucratic federal level.

Second, I fail to see much of a problem with granting all of these concerns flexibility. As long as the spending reductions sequestration are still enacted, and the agencies aim for the “low-hanging fruit” in their agencies before making “cuts” that will harm the American people, flexibility is perfectly acceptable.

Expect more of these pseudo-sob stories as sequestration continues to kick into gear.

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