Tag Archives: Washington Post

Sequestration hurts, but no wolves appear, according to WaPo

In science the “observer effect” supposes that the act of observing an phenomenon changes it. So it goes with a Washington Post story from Sunday with the headline “They said the sequester would be scary. Mostly, they were wrong.

The headline comes from claims made mostly by the Obama Administration of what sequestration would cause. Many of the scary things predicted have not happened. Some of it is because Congress created more flexibility than the meat cleaver that was initially part of the sequestration threat.

But U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, has said on several occasions that the technical definition of the kind of cuts made under sequestration is “dumb.” And there are people locally, civilian employees at Keyport as one example, who have felt the real impact of sequestration. And there are cuts that have happened that could take a long, long time for anyone to notice. And by that time they might have forgotten about sequestration. Here are three paragraphs from the story that show some of the impacts and the places where the government cried, “Wolf!”

“Across the government, more than 125,000 employees have been furloughed from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Internal Revenue Service, and other agencies. About 650,000 Defense Department civilians will start taking 11 unpaid days next week. Public defenders are losing up to 15 days of pay.

“In 24 cases, however, The Post’s review showed that the predictions were wrong — sequestration had not lived up to the administration’s alarms.

“That included some cases in which furloughs were threatened but then reduced or eliminated. Customs and Border Protection agents, for example, faced up to 14 unpaid days before the Department of Homeland Security shifted money around last month to avoid the furloughs.”

Other parts of the story show where government agencies have made cuts that will benefit taxpayers. There is much less of a tendency to send employees to conferences, which should certainly reduce the likelihood of seeing high-profile abuses like that of the General Services Administration $820,000 conference in Las Vegas. It also means scientists won’t meet as much.

The Post’s story’s emphasis is primarily on the fact that the widespread (It’s important to emphasize “widespread,” because 11 furlough days in my family would be calamitous to us, just not to the entire nation.) calamity predicted by sequestration has not happened. In fact, in some cases it has created effects that could prove to be positive in the long run. Another sequestration round begins in October unless Congress passes a budget. If Congress doesn’t, it’s going to be harder for those who predict disaster to find a believing audience.

’47 percent’ may not matter much after all

I always suspected this about cats. This comes from sodahead.com.

Four years ago I relied much on the RealClearPolitics website to find a broad mix of stories related to the political noise of the day. Who knew that four years later the site would still be my most valued source on national issues at a time when hot sites become relics within weeks?

I found two pieces today that offer reasoned (a rare adjective these days) discussion on what Romney said. And to be clear, I believe what Romney described as “not elegantly stated” should more accurately be described as “as wrong calling a cat a fascist.” That is, the 47 percent he named, those who don’t pay income tax, are not all the “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

That said, it has opened a conversation about the fact that 47 percent don’t pay federal income taxes. And that’s where Debra Saunders is taking us when she says,

“…the result is an America in which close to half of voters can support any scheme designed to expand the scope of federal government, secure in the knowledge that they likely will not have to pay for it.”

On the flip side, it is worth discovering why there is 47 percent not paying federal income taxes. It’s not just because of the snoozy economy. Steve Chapman, in an editorial that is (I’m warning you now.) highly critical of Romney and his statement, (The title, “Romney’s Dependancy Delusion” is a clue.) explains it this way, among others:

“Since 1990, the number of people getting Social Security benefits has risen by more than a third. That’s not because the government has suddenly enlarged the program in an effort to undermine self-reliance. It’s because there are more old people.”

RCP also links a Washington Post blog post by Aaron Blake, who says the gaffe probably won’t matter in November.

Which reminds me, the Atlantic Monthly has a graph showing historical evidence that Romney’s comment will have little impact on the election’s ultimate outcome.