Bankrupting America’s Spending Daily

| March 1 2013

Spending Daily | March 1, 2013

New Video: Do you believe in miracles?
We’ve known about the sequester for more than a year, it’s consumed all of Washington for the last two months (since the last fiscal crisis) and with no progress on any alternative, today will be the first time Republicans, Democrats and the president will sit down together to discuss it.  Will an 11th hour photo opp help squeeze out a deal to cut three cents of every dollar to offset the sequester? Do you believe in miracles? Check out the latest video from Bankrupting America.

“Hail Armageddon” 

Charles Krauthammer editorializes in The Washington Post, “‘The worst-case scenario for us,’ a leading anti-budget-cuts lobbyist told The Post, ‘is the sequester hits and nothing bad really happens.’ Think about that. Worst case? That a government drowning in debt should cut back by 2.2 percent — and the country survives. That a government now borrowing 35 cents of every dollar it spends reduces that borrowing by two cents “and nothing bad really happens.” Oh, the humanity! … A 2011 Government Accountability Office report gave a sampling of the vastness of what could be cut, consolidated and rationalized in Washington: 44 overlapping job training programs, 18 for nutrition assistance, 82 (!) on teacher quality, 56 dealing with financial literacy, more than 20 for homelessness, etc. Total annual cost: $100 billion-$200 billion, about two to five times the entire domestic sequester.”

Administration: Radioactive Nuclear Waste Clean Up to Slow Due to Cuts
The Associated Press reports, “ Cleanup of radioactive waste at nuclear sites across the country – including one in Washington state where waste tanks may be leaking 1,000 gallons per year – would be delayed under automatic spending cuts set to take effect Friday. Energy Secretary Steven Chu says the cuts would delay work at the department’s highest-risk sites, including theHanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash., where six tanks are leaking radioactive waste left over from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons. It was not clear Thursday whether cleanup of the leaking tanks would be affected by the spending cuts. Overall cleanup efforts at Hanford – one of the nation’s most contaminated sites – would be curtailed, Energy Department spokesman Dan Leistikow said. A report by Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee said more than 1,000 mostly private workers at Hanford could be furloughed. Hanford and other Energy Department defense sites where radioactive waste is stored would be forced to suspend or delay cleanup activities and even shut down some facilities, the report said.”

Sequester Blame Game Begins as Leaders Meet
POLITICO reports, “The who-created-the-sequester narrative is no longer a sideshow — it’s become the main act, as the congressional leadership heads to the White House Friday for the first meeting with the president in months. Republicans triumphantly argue (with a big assist from Bob Woodward) that President Barack Obama is responsible for the mechanism that set up the massive spending cuts that take effect March 1. But Obama is claiming that all bad things resulting from the sequester — including furloughs and long airport lines — are because Republicans refuse to act responsibly. The president’s culpability has become such a central GOP talking point that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) often says that the House is absolved from passing a third bill to blunt the cuts until Obama and the Democratic Senate come up with their own plan to replace ‘the president’s sequester.’ … With that, congressional leadership now heads to the White House for a last-minute meeting to stop the cuts. Most insiders say the meeting is nothing more than a photo-op. In fact, lawmakers are so certain that nothing will happen that they have already headed home for the weekend. There is no hint of any agreement in the offing.”

White House Threatens to Veto Flexibility?
The Wall Street Journal editorializes, “If you’re reading this after midnight on Friday, March 1, the dreaded Beltway hour of doom known as the ‘sequester’ has arrived and the news is that the world has not ended. You can pinch yourself to make sure. This does not mean there won’t be morepolitical histrionics, but the beginning of applying reason to Washington is understanding that it is possible to cut at least some federal spending. President Obama’s goal, by contrast, is not to cut any spending in the here and now, only sometime in the ‘out years,’ to use the Washington phrase, presumably when he’ll be out of office. That’s the only way to comprehend the White House statement Thursday that the President will veto any Republican bill to give him more flexibility to minimize any sequester damage. … President Obama’s goal, by contrast, is not to cut any spending in the here and now, only sometime in the ‘out years,’ to use the Washington phrase, presumably when he’ll be out of office. That’s the only way to comprehend the White House statement Thursday that the President will veto any Republican bill to give him more flexibility to minimize any sequester damage.”

Congressional Members’ Salaries Exempt from Sequester Cuts
The Washington Guardian reports, “Federal employees may be furloughed, Navy patrols reduced and everyday citizens inconvenienced by the sequester budget cuts that take effect Friday, but there’s one group of Americans who won’t have to worry about paychecks: members of Congress. The White House Office of Management and Budget and the Clerk of the House of Representatives say lawmakers can’t suffer any salary cuts from the sequester because of a provision amended into the U.S. Constitution.”

Is the President Not Telling the Whole Sequester Story?
Lanhee Chen writes in Bloomberg, “We find ourselves today on the brink of yet another manufactured crisis in Washington. By now, almost everyone has heard of the automatic spending cuts, or sequestration, set to go into effect tomorrow. The BarackObama administration has spent the past few days describing the doomsday scenarios that will play out if an agreement isn’t reached to avoid the cuts — and it seems as if Republicans and Democrats alike want to find a way to avoid them. … There are two fundamental issues at play: One is the magnitude of the cuts imposed by sequestration; the other is the manner in which those cuts are applied. … The other issue — how the cuts are applied — is trickier. And this is where the accusation that the Obama administration is merely playing politics rings true. Both Democrats and Republicans have decried the indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts. And there’s no denying that the sequestration mechanism is bad policy. But the cuts don’t have to happen that way. First, the administration probably has the authority to reduce spending in more intelligent ways. This makes its doomsday scenarios completely disingenuous. … Second, negotiators in both the House and Senate have come up with alternatives to give the president the ability to make the spending cuts with a scalpel rather than a meat cleaver. Unfortunately, these alternatives have met with resistance from Democrats.”

“Congress heads out as sequester blows in”
The Washington Post reports, “One day before automatic spending cuts were due to hit the Pentagon and other federal agencies, Congress on Thursday abandoned efforts to avert the reductions and left town for the weekend. The sequester is here, and policymakers have no plans to end it. President Obama is scheduled to meet Friday at the White House with congressional leaders, but expectations for the meeting are low. House Republicans are already turning their attention to the next deadline on March 27, drafting a measure that would avoid a government shutdown while leaving the sequester in place through the end of September. Administration officials insist that the path to compromise lies in a ‘balanced’ approach that replaces the cuts in part with higher taxes. But among Republicans — even those who admit the sequester will cause pain to the folks back home — the appetite for new taxes is virtually nil.”

Time Runs Out, Sequester Cuts Roll In
The Washington Times reports, “The federal government enters a controversial new phase of deficit cutting Friday, as an automatic trigger begins slicingbudgets in some areas while leaving programs such as Medicare and Medicaid—among the largest drivers of future debt—largely untouched. The $85 billion in so-called sequester cuts push Washington, and the nation’s economy, into uncertain waters. The debate over the across-the-board reductions has added to the already-high level of acrimony between Democrats and Republicans on fiscal matters, lowered even further the public’s estimation of the capital’s leaders and raised consumer fears about the economy, according to polls. In the eyes of many budget experts, though, it is doing something worse: By focusing on a proportionally small level of spending, the sequester fight is distracting attention from longer-term deficit issues that need to be addressed.“

Another $1.5 Billion Down the Drain?
The Washington Guardian reports, “After scrapping a failed $1 billion border security program, government investigators fear the Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) is well on its way to bungling a new $1.5 billion effort. ‘CBP does not have the information needed to fully support and implement its Arizona Border Surveillance Technology Plan,’ said a report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ watchdog arm. To secure the rest of Arizona’s border – and eventually all of the United States’ roughly 2,000 mile boundary with Mexico – CBP and its parent organization, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), have started a new project: the Arizona Border Surveillance Technology Plan, which is expected to cost $1.5 billion over 10 years. … In fact, GAO officials went so far as to call the CBP’s $1.5 billion price estimate ‘minimally credible.’”

Next Crisis Already Around the Corner: Shutdown
POLITICO reports, “The $85 billion, across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester are almost certainly going to occur effective 11:59 p.m. Friday after the Senate rejected two last-minute measures to stave them off on Thursday. President Barack Obama will most likely issue the order that will trigger hundreds ofthousands of furloughs in the federal government and severely impact many departments including the Pentagon. This, despite summoning congressional leaders to the White House on Friday morning for a meeting on the way forward. … Attention now immediately shifts to how Congress can avert a potentially calamitous government shutdown on March 27, when a stopgap continuing resolution, or CR, expires. In an interview Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats would wait to see what the House produces before making decisions on how toproceed on the CR. … To avoid a blowup, leaders in both parties seem determined not to use any extension of the CR as a vehicle to change the cuts significantly. But they could possibly provide incremental relief to agencies by updating their appropriations, from which the cuts are made.”

BankruptingAmerica.org is an educational project of Public Notice, an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit, 501(c)(4) organization dedicated to providing facts and insight on the effects public policy has on Americans’ financial well-being.

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