Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Sequester Bites (Updated)

I laughed and laughed when the REpublicans complained that cuts to air traffic controllers and flight delays, due to the FAA cuts under the sequester, were "political". Fleet week in NYC has been cancelled. I'm scrambling to try to fund my laboratory. Did they really believe that their draconian cuts would be arranged as to not inconvenience them?

  The Editorial Board in the NY Times:
As it happens, the sequester law is clear in requiring the F.A.A. and most other agencies to cut their programs by an even amount. That law was foisted on the public after Republicans demanded spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in 2011. Since then, the party has rejected every offer to replace the sequester with a more sensible mix of cuts and revenue increases. Mr. Boehner is so proud of that strategy that he recently congratulated his party for sticking with the sequester and standing up to the president’s demands for tax increases.

But drastic cuts in spending carry a heavy price. Republicans certainly don’t want voters they care about — including business travelers and those who can afford to fly on vacation — to feel it. They continue to claim that the $85 billion in this year’s sequester can be covered by eliminating waste, fraud, consultants, and the inevitable grant to some obscure science or art project. And, of course, to programs for the poor.

You don’t see any Republican hashtags blaming the president for cutting housing vouchers to 140,000 low-income families, which has begun. ...There aren’t any angry tweets about the 70,000 Head Start slots about to be eliminated.... Or about the cuts to Vista, which is hurting the program that performs antipoverty work in many states. Or the 11 percent cut in unemployment benefits for millions of jobless workers.

The voiceless people who are the most affected by these cuts can’t afford high-priced lobbyists to get them an exception to the sequester, the way that the agriculture lobby was able to fend off a furlough to meat inspectors, which might have disrupted beef and poultry operations. And what was cut in order to keep those inspectors on the job? About $25 million from a program to provide free school breakfasts.
This makes me sick.  So yeah, bring it on.  Maybe when there's a plane crash, or a few too many big shots get stuck on the tarmac for 4 hours...maybe THEN there will be some force against the loons in Congress.

Meanwhile, Robert Reich sums it up on Facebook: (my paragraphing)
I'm old enough to remember when there were liberal Republicans who joined with liberal Democrats to do what the nation needed, such as enacting the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Environmental Protection Act. 
But the Grand Old Party threw out its liberals and then kicked out its moderates, and is now the party of xenophobes, homophobes, mysogynists, and reactionaries -- who cling to their so-called right to own assault guns but don't give a hoot about the rights of Americans accused of crimes to have lawyers and criminal trials, who are so concerned about fetuses they deny women rights over their own bodies but don't give a damn about babies without adequate nourishment or health care, who refuse equal marriage rights but consider corporations people under the First Amendment, who don't want to close tax loopholes for the very rich but are eager to cut housing vouchers and Head Start for the poor, and who call themselves patriots and wrap themselves in the American flag but don't care enough about the well-being of their fellow Americans to want to finance good schools and adequate heath care for all.
Or as we commented previously, have no compunction about throwing the Constitution out the window when someone mentions the word "Muslim".

With the REpublicans, there is no "there" there.  Michael Tomasky calls them the "immovable party of Nays", and Jonathan Bernstein points out that they are entirely reactionary, and not even pretending to set policy:
Over the last couple of decades, majority parties in the House of Representatives have taken to reserving the very first bill numbers for their party’s agenda. Normally, bills are just numbered in order, when they are introduced: H.R. 637 is usually the bill introduced just after H.R. 636 and just before H.R. 638. But that’s just custom, and at some point a new custom evolved to save H.R. 1 through H.R. 5, and then through H.R. 10, for important party agenda bills. 
Which leads to the embarrassing fact that no one seems to have noticed about this year’s House Republicans. Over 100 days into the current Congress, their agenda is … almost completely empty.
This is no way to govern a country.

Update: GOP And The Sequester: Disingenuous, Naive & Misinformed

It's also amusing because what's happened this week with the FAA has happened before in 1995 and 1996 during the two government shutdowns. Anyone who lived through it will tell you that there was almost instant surprise, shock and anger about the national parks being closed because few realized it would actually happen or believed it when they were warned. 
There are, however, three differences between what's already happened this week and what happened 18 years ago. 
The first is that the White House actually had more discretion in 95-96 than it has today. President Clinton had the authority to exempt critical programs -- like FAA -- from the shutdown. By contract, President Obama has no such power when it comes to the sequester. 
The second is the people who have been affected. In 1995 and 1996 it was campers, hikers and RVers. This week it primarily was salespeople, Wall Streeters and business travelers.
The third is that there was a more or less instant cure for the shutdowns in 95-96 because the problem could be stopped quickly by passing a continuing resolution and reopening the government. This time, the debate will be far harder because the decision has a number of nuances. Are the funds taken from somewhere else to keep the planes flying on time? Should other government services be similarly rescued? Would it be better just to spend more and increase the deficit to restore these services? Will supporters of the other programs that might be cut to pay for FAA et al allow that to happen? 
In the meantime, it's impossible not to see this week's congressional GOP complaints about the sequester either completely disingenuous, incredibly naive or totally uninformed. Of course it's also possible that all three apply at the same time.


dr.primrose said...

Michael Hiltzik in today's L.A. Times writes that push for chained CPI, intended to screw Social Security recipients, is based on highly discredited research - Chained thinking on the federal deficit.

"The idea that Social Security benefits should be on the table in budget talks arises from the fear that America's national debt, driven by its budget deficit, is growing to the point that it will push us over the economic brink.

"Here's the tragedy of it: That fear is based on junk economics.

"Many economists knew that already, but it has been underscored by the exposure of material errors in a widely circulated academic paper that provided an intellectual foundation for the idea that the federal debt was getting so far out of control that only dramatic cuts in spending could save us from the abyss.


"Now that we know the drive for a grand bargain is based on an economic concept with no empirical foundation, its absurdity stands in high relief. No one disagrees that sometimes (though not always) it's better to have less debt than more; the issue for post-crash fiscal policymakers has always been one of urgency and magnitude.

"You implement changes like the chained CPI if you fear that you're about to fall into the abyss. In that case, of course, you also do things that will matter more, like cutting a bloated defense budget and raising taxes on the wealthy. The fact that the chained CPI ended up as a symbol of Obama's willingness to make a deal shows just how far budget policy in Washington has become untethered from reality.

"It's rare for bad research, bad economics and bad politics to come together to produce something so just plain bad."

IT said...

Indeed, Primrose. We could be enjoying a solid steady growth and a healthy economy. But our government wont let us.