Sequester Damage Modest And Slow To Develop, According To Reports

| May 30 2013

Spending Daily | May 30, 2013

“Poll: President Obama job approval rating down”

POLITICO reports, “President Barack Obama’s approval rating took a hit amid three controversies surrounding his administration, including an investigation into the IRS unfairly targeting conservative groups seeking nonprofit status, a new poll Thursday showed. Obama has a 45 percent approval rating and a 49 percent disapproval rating — compared with a 48 percent approval, 45 percent disapproval rating from May 1, according to the Quinnipiac University poll. In particular, Obama plunged among independent voters. Only 37 percent of independents approve of him while 57 percent disapprove, Quinnipiac found.”

 

“First Quarter Growth Revised Down To 2.4%”

MarketWatch reports, “The U.S. economy grew at a 2.4% annual pace in the first quarter, little changed from the originally reported 2.5% increase, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected growth to remain unchanged at 2.5%. Consumer spending was somewhat higher, while business investment and government outlays were revised down, according to the government’s second assessment of gross domestic product. Consumer spending – the engine of the U.S. economy – was revised up to 3.4% from 3.2%.”

 

40,000 Jobs Added to D.C. Area Since Sequester Took Effect

The Washington Post reports, “In the months since the automatic federal spending cuts known as the sequester took effect, the Washington area has added 40,000 jobs. Income-tax receipts have surged in Virginia, beating expectations. Few government contractors have laid off workers. It’s too early to be certain, but initial indications are that the damage from the sequester has been modest and slow to develop. Labor Department statistics released Wednesday showed that the area’s unemployment rate held steady at a seasonally adjusted 5.3 percent in April, the same as in March. The pace of job growth from January to April was only slightly slower this year than last year. Large government contractors are reporting relatively modest revenue hits and few layoffs due to reduced contracts.”

 

“EPA cuts projected number of furlough days”

The Washington Post reports, “The Environmental Protection Agency has become the latest agency to cut back on its projected furlough days, cutting three days to bring the total to just under seven. Acting administrator Bob Perciasepe announced the reduction in a memo to employees Wednesday afternoon, saying that since initially announcing furlough plans, ‘we have worked hard to carefully and comprehensively review our resources and our priorities again, with a focus on minimizing furloughs.’”

 

President’s Trips Under Extra Scrutiny After Sequester

The New York Times reports, “Perhaps it is nothing more than an accident of timing that as federal workers brace for a summer filled with unpaid furlough days, their leaders are traveling the nation and globe on trips that exude luxury. On Wednesday, President Obama left the White House for two Chicago fund-raisers in the hope of helping Democrats retake the House in next year’s elections. The cost of flying aboard Air Force One to his hometown: $180,000 per hour. The same day, Michelle Obama traveled to Massachusetts to lunch with rich donors who had paid up to $37,600 per ticket at the Taj Boston Hotel. The meal included roasted Chilean sea bass with a fricassee of asparagus. Meanwhile, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill, were in Rio de Janeiro, part of a six-day swing through Latin America to discuss trade and investment, including a stop in Trinidad and Tobago. ‘We’ve got kind of an Obama cabal in this room,’ the president joked Wednesday night during a $32,400-per-couple fund-raiser with about 70 of his friends at the home of Bettylu and Paul Saltzman, longtime supporters. He said returning to Chicago for the day was like ‘Old Home Week.’”

 

“Like Your Health Care Policy? You May Be Losing It”

The Associated Press reports, “Many people who buy their own health insurance could get surprises in the mail this fall: cancellation notices because their current policies aren’t up to the basic standards of President Barack Obama’s health care law. They, and some small businesses, will have to find replacement plans — and that has some state insurance officials worried about consumer confusion. Rollout of the Affordable Care Act is going full speed ahead, despite repeal efforts by congressional Republicans. New insurance markets called exchanges are to open in every state this fall. Middle-class consumers who don’t get coverage on the job will be able to pick private health plans, while low-income people will be steered to an expanded version of Medicaid in states that accept it. The goal is to cover most of the nation’s nearly 50 million uninsured, but even Obama says there will be bumps in the road. And discontinued insurance plans could be another bump. Also, it doesn’t seem to square with one of the president’s best known promises about his health care overhaul: ‘If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan.’”

 

GAO Warns Entitlements Are Unprepared for Increased Recipients

The Washington Guardian reports, “Social Security is already facing a financial crisis as more people rely on payments and fewer taxpayers pay into the program. Now it may soon face a people crisis. The Social Security Administration is ill-prepared to deal with the large numbers of its workers who are planning to retire, even as the agency’s workload is increasing, according to a new Government Accountability Office report that warns that one of the consequences could be an increase in erroneous retirement and disability payments. … The number of Americans receiving Social Security benefits keeps rising.  In 2012, 62 million people received more than $826 billion in benefits, according to SSA data.  By 2025, projections show that 85 million people will be receiving Social Security.  During the same time period, between 20,000 to 30,000 SSA employees are expected to retire, leaving the agency with a serious workforce shortage, GAO said. The retirements also bring a loss in expertise and knowledge that will further hamper the agency, GAO cautioned.  It usually takes two to three years for new hires to become ‘fully proficient,’ investigators said, but in response to budget cuts the SSA has also been curtailing its training. And that has led to some inexperienced employees being put in supervisory roles, GAO said.  Several SSA officials told federal investigators that these inexperienced supervisors would often make ‘poor decisions.’”

 

Obama Scandals Are Far From Over

Investors Business Daily reports, “Fans of the president may want to believe the IRS and other scandals are beginning to lose momentum. The media may indeed let up, but the facts crying out for investigation mount. Extolling the fire-extinguishing skills of White House staff, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Tuesday said IRS administrator Lois Lerner’s orchestrated revelation two weeks earlier of slanted, abusive scrutinizing of conservative groups now ‘seems like a million years ago.’ The president’s men may be getting smoother at keeping their stories straight, but sending Lerner on administrative leave and making her out as a bumbling bureaucrat run amok may not sell well — especially with her continuing to receive close to $180,000 in full-time pay on the taxpayer’s dime without doing any work. … Those data troves could be a bonanza for Issa’s panel, the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and, perhaps, a special prosecutor. So the IRS scandal will get bigger, not smaller. Meanwhile, if Republicans handle it deftly, they may be able to convince the public that Attorney General Eric Holder committed perjury in his congressional testimony earlier this month in the Justice Department scandal.”

 

Conservative Group Founder Spent More Than $100,000 Dealing with IRS Requests

CBS News reports, “Texas businesswoman Catherine Engelbrecht says she never had trouble with the government. That is, until she founded two groups with conservative causes. Now, she’s telling a fascinating story of alleged harassment not only by the IRS but also other agencies that she believes targeted her and her organizations because of their political ties. … The trouble began shortly after Engelbrecht founded True the Vote, which trains election volunteers and aims to root out voter fraud; and King Street Patriots, a group with ideals similar to the Tea Party. Both sought tax-exempt status from the IRS in July 2010. … Within months of the groups filing for tax-exempt status, Engelbrecht claims she started getting hit by an onslaught of harassment: six FBI domestic terrorism inquiries, an IRS visit, two IRS business audits, two IRS personal audits, and inspections of her equipment manufacturing company by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Texas environmental quality officials. …  Engelbrecht estimates she’s spent more than $100,000 in attorney and accountant fees to process the IRS requests.”

 

Experts Urging Defense Cuts

The Wall Street Journal reports, “Defense experts from across the political spectrum are joining forces to call on Congress to tackle some of the most politically charged Pentagon spending choices and avoid cuts that could undermine America’s national security. More than two dozen military analysts from 10 major think tanks are planning to release a joint letter on Monday urging politicians to close military bases, overhaul the military’s generous health-care program and cut the size of the Pentagon civilian workforce. Signatories include analysts from the Libertarian Cato Institute, the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and the left-leaning Center for American Progress. ‘All agree on three basic reforms,’ said Todd Harrison, a defense specialist at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments who has been spearheading the unified campaign. Of the three proposals, cutting the Defense Department’s civilian workforce – which his risen to nearly 800,000 – may be the most politically palatable.”

 

Former Obama Aide Helps Fundraise For Healthcare Rollout

USA Today reports, “Health care adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle left the White House earlier this year, but in one sense she’s still working for the administration — raising private money for this year’s rollout of key parts of President Obama’s health care law. Politico reports that DeParle ‘is asking top executives at several health insurance companies to donate $1 million or more to Enroll America, a non-profit organization promoting Obamacare enrollment, several sources familiar with her role said.’ … During Obama’s first term, DeParle worked as director of the White House Office of Health Reform — playing a key role in passage of the new law — and later as deputy chief of staff for policy. These days, she holds posts with the Brookings Institution and Harvard Law School. Health care exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act signed in 2010 are set to begin enrollment Oct. 1, and the White House is gearing up a big campaign to encourage uninsured Americans to sign up.”

 

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