StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

GOP And The Sequester: Disingenuous, Naive & Misinformed

24 Apr 2013
Posted by Stan Collender

As I posted on March 1, the sequester -- the across-the-board spending cuts ordered by the Budget Control Act-- would only become real for most voters when the predictions of the impact of the reductions actually started to have a effect on their lives.

Although some people felt it almost immediately, any budget analyst worth his or her salt knew that the real pain was always going to come when federal programs that were labor intensive started to implement furloughs, layoffs and hiring freezes and the services they provided had to be curtailed. That was always going to take a month or more because of the process that needs to be followed to notify employees.

But the fact that labor-intensive programs didn't reduce services immediately when the sequester began on March 1 never meant that it wasn't coming. It always was and the protests that the White House was playing fiscal chicken little were simply wrong.

That why it's hard not be be at least somewhat amused by the mock congressional Republican outrage over the problems that started to be felt this week by airline passengers because of the sequester-related furloughs and other personnel changes at the Federal Aviation Administration.

It's amusing because the air traffic control slowdowns were totally predictable. At least 70 percent of FAA's expenses are personnel-related so it was inevitable that the 5.1 percent across-the-board sequester cut would be felt in everything the agency does including -- or especially -- in its primary function: managing air traffic. When you set up a system like sequestration that requires an agency or department to cut every program, project, and activity by the same percentage, and when an agency's spending is mostly for salaries and other compensation-related expenses, it's not hard to see from the start that there has to be an impact on the number of people doing that agency's work.

No amount of outraged statements from Senate and House Republicans changes that budget reality.

It's also amusing because congressional Republicans refused to believe the warnings that were coming from the agencies and departments themselves about what the sequester would do to their operations when they were issued in January and February.

They also flatly denied what the White House was saying at the start of the year about the impact the cuts would have on government services. The administration was fear-mongering, they said, even though it was clear to anyone who could read the federal budget that agencies like the FAA would have no choice but to reduce the services they provide and that airlines and passengers would feel the changes.

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.

Stan you as well seem

Stan you as well seem completely disingenuous, incredibly naive or totally uninformed
One could well say that this is an Obama manufactured crisis starting with him presenting the sequester back in the not to distant past!

I am getting old and I am not sure if the following quote is attributed to Ben Franklin:
All are born stupid but one has to work really hard to stay stupid

Disingenuous, naive, uninformed...and FORGETFUL

Pop quiz to the commenter above
1. The sequester was presented and approved by Congress as an alternative to what? Which would have resulted in what?
Maybe for you FORGETFUL is a fourth option, although I personally think the first one fully covers it.

"Sam you as well seem"

It's completely disingenuous to put the sequester on Obama. There is one party that was totally dedicated to the idea of massive cuts. That party would rather shut down the government than come to a true meeting in the middle on spending and revenue as they've proved time and again. They forced this sequester on us by their sudden obsession (notice they never seem to be concerned with a deficit when they control the White House and we only get into shut down mode when a Democrat holds that post) with bringing down the budget deficit. That wasn't an Obama creation.....the hilarity of so called conservatives who bash the mans spending to turn around and try to pin the blame of the sequester on him is rare even in our current political climate. How can you determine that one man is both the biggest out of control spender in our history and then turn around and blame brutal government cutbacks on him? That's astounding.

I have plenty of issues with our President and his handling of our economy, but only a partisan hack who refused to look at facts can put the sequester on the left. They never would have come down this road of spending cuts if not for massive GOP/Tea Party obstructionism of any deal that would avoid it. They never even would consider cutting this kind of spending on their own. To pin it on them is a full fledged deceit based on nothing other than party and politics over common sense.

We'll never get any better off if we can't have honest conversations about what's going on instead of twisting logic and reason to fit our political narratives.

Your premise is wrong

A.C., this is nonsense. It was agreed by both parties when their negotiation was at an impasse, on the belief that sequestration would prove so unpalatable that it would force an agreement. Obama hoped that this would be a "grand bargain" to restore certainty and allow a pivot to other issues. And please, don't forget why the negotiations were at an impasse: because the House R's said they would not raise the debt ceiling until they had spending cuts equal to 100 percent of the rise. 100 percent. A 10 to 1 ratio of spending to revenues (as all the R prez candidates agreed at their debate) was not acceptable. 100 percent. So stop blaming the President, start blaming the people who threatened to burn down the house with all of us still in it.

Aaaand, there's another misinformed person...

Seriously, the 'sequester' was not manufactured by either party, but was chosen by both as too heinous an outcome to actually allow such that the parties would surely negotiate a solution. Well, THAT didn't happen. If you want it to be Obama who manufactured it, then you have to assume he negotiated in bad faith and the absolute anti-tax orthodoxy of the other side had nothing to do with it. Of course, this IS pretty clearly what you believe, so then your statement is true, to you. Objectively, not so much...

You have done a great job of

You have done a great job of describing the problem The fact that the same people who preach austerity are the same ones who now want exceptions. Be careful what you wish for business travelers

Let's pretend Obama is manipulating the situation ...

... why would that be relevant? Those who want austerity have no right to complain when austerity hits their pet programs. You got what you wanted, now grow up and quit your whining.

In fact, there is no conspiracy. Everybody knew, or should have known, that the cuts were across the board. If you can't grasp the meaning of across the board, you must be stupid. Again, grow up and quit your whining.

More detail makes it clearer

If you get beneath the service the stupidity of saying that the administration could have done anything different becomes even clearer. To begin with, while we're talking about a 5.1% cut on an annual basis, the date that the sequester became effective, together with the 30-day notice required for any furlough requires that the cut be spread over only 6 months. This means that the effective cut is over 10%. Second, there are a lot of agency expenditures that cannot be cut: rent on rented office space, health insurance and other employee benefits, etc. So, when you take those off the table, the cuts that have to be made to the remaining, variable accounts are even bigger. Then, when you consider that 15,000 of the 40,000 FAA employees are air traffic controllers, the idea that FAA could exempt them from furloughs becomes even more implausible, because it would mean nearly doubling the furlough days for all the other employees (including the thousands of safety inspectors).

A Fourth Possibility

You say that GOP complaints about the sequester are (1) completely disingenuous, (2) incredibly naive, or (3) totally uninformed. But there's a fourth possibility: Completely malicious. That's where I put my money.


lets face it. the only reason the clowns in congress found the funds to keep controllers at full compliment is because this was causing our reps delays in getting home. I am glad that all controllers are back in the towers but again we know why this came about. our leaders care nothing about the American people. that is unless you are the top 1 percent. our leaders are pathetic-both parties.

Recent comments


Order from Amazon


Creative Commons LicenseThe content of is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Need permissions beyond the scope of this license? Please submit a request here.