When Congress and President Barack Obama were embroiled in a fight over raising the debt ceiling yet again in 2011, and Republicans vowed not to approve another increase without debt reduction efforts, an agreement was made to automatically implement more than $1 trillion in across-the-board “cuts” over a 10-year period if no other plan was agreed upon by early 2013.
This “sequester” option was supposed to be so distasteful that both parties would feel compelled to negotiate a compromise in order to avoid it, but the deadline came and went and the sequestration went into effect.
A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report reviewed 23 federal agencies to determine how they were affected by, and responded to, the sequester. So what draconian cuts and economic devastation hath the sequester wrought? According to the GAO, the sequester led to an agonizing total of … one layoff.
That’s right. The severe cuts that the White House said were going to “threaten thousands of jobs and the economic security of the middle class,” the coldhearted evisceration that was going to slash government services from food safety to military readiness to emergency preparedness to mental health programs to meals for the sick and elderly to teachers and school programs (it’s for the children, after all) resulted in a grand total of a single government job loss.
That unfortunate employee, by the way, was let go from the U.S. Parole Commission, part of the Department of Justice.
The disparity between reality and the Chicken Little warnings issued by leaders of both parties was not lost on Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. “Despite relentless warnings about the dire consequences of sequestration’s budget cuts, it appears sequestration resulted in only one layoff,” he said in a statement. “While that’s good news for federal employees and other workers, it is devastating to the credibility of Washington politicians and administration officials who spent months — and millions of dollars — engaging in a coordinated multi-agency cabinet-level public relations campaign to scare the American people.”
Coburn continued, “Taxpayers expect us to root our predictions in fact, not ideology and spin. The facts seem to say the experts underestimated sequestration’s impact by between 99,999 and 1,599,999 jobs, according to two frequently-cited estimates by Goldman Sachs and the Congressional Budget Office.”
It is because politicians on both sides of the aisle continue to engage in scaremongering and throw bogus statistics and projections at citizens so they can grow their favorite government programs and protect their special interests that the country has lost faith in government.
No wonder Congress’ approval rating is down to 10 percent or 15 percent, according to the most recent Economist/YouGov and Gallup polls, respectively.
If those in government hope to regain any of that credibility, they will have to start dealing honestly with facts and figures. They will, furthermore, have to get serious about making the budget cuts — real cuts — that they promised in order to address the rapid growth of government debt that really will crush the economic security of the middle class if left untamed.
— From the Orange County Register