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Sequestration Day

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The budget cuts begin for American Government. So what does this mean and the effects there of. 


News story click here for video



Americans are a lot better at belt-tightening than the people they send to Washington.

As Americans’ income fell by 3.6 percent in January, President Obama and Congressional leaders were warning of the dire consequences of sequester, the budgetary booby trap that forces cuts of as little as a third of that from the mammoth federal spending plan. Working stiffs sucked it up and absorbed the biggest monthly drop in income in 20 years, while the elected officials insisted that the federal budget had no fat to trim.

Financial planning experts say if Americans can take such a big bite out of their paychecks, Washington should be able to weather a similar cut, percentage-wise.


“If you compare [the sequester cuts] to sacrifices a regular family has had to make, you’re talking about the money you find in your couch cushions.”

- Larry Winget, best-selling author


“If you compare [the sequester cuts] to sacrifices a regular family has had to make, you’re talking about the money you find in your couch cushions,” said Larry Winget, the best-selling author of “You’re Broke Because You Want to Be.”

“When regular folks need to cut the household budget, they get rid of their toys, their cable TV, eating out,” Winget continued. “If they can make those kind of cuts, the federal government ought to be able to.”

The sequester cuts were put in place more than a year ago as a means of forcing lawmakers to come up with a better cost-saving solution. President Obama famously said during a debate with Mitt Romney that they would “never happen.” But as the deadline drew near and it became clear that no deal was in the offing to head off the cuts, sober warnings emerged from the nation’s capitol. Some 800,000 Pentagon workers would be furloughed. Thousands of illegal aliens would have to be freed. Teachers and firefighters would be laid off.

"These cuts are wrong," President Obama said this week, calling sequester a "dumb way" to make cuts which amount to 2.4 percent or 1.3 percent of the $3.5 trillion federal budget, depending on which calculation is being used.

The sequester cuts, which hit defense hardest but also take a bite out of discretionary spending including foreign aid and the budget of most federal agencies, add up to $85 billion when pro-rated over a full year. But since the government operates on a fiscal year, actual spending will only fall by $44 billion this year, according to the Congressional Budget.

Financial expert and television personality Ben Stein said Washington’s dysfunction is best illustrated by the fact lawmakers had a year and a half to find a more gentle way to make the cuts, but couldn’t agree. Now the spending cuts are being imposed with a sledge hammer instead of a scalpel, he said.

“The problem is not the cuts, the problem is the meat-cleaver way it was done,” Stein told FoxNews.com. “We expect a LOT more care from our legislators and our president.”

Heritage Foundation President-elect Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator and fiscal hawk, wrote Friday that the White House is making it “seem like sequestration means the end of the world. “ But given that the federal budget nearly doubled to $3.5 trillion from $2 trillion between 2002 and 2012, and will swell to $6 trillion over the next decade, DeMint said the cuts don’t go nearly far enough.

“The sequester barely taps the brakes on this runaway spending,” DeMint wrote.

But the spending cuts Americans are facing at home are truly painful. The Commerce Department’s announcement on Friday verified what working Americans noticed in January, starting with the expiration of the payroll tax holiday, which equated to a 2.2 percent pay cut for most employees. A chronically struggling economy further eroded incomes even as heating bills, gas prices and food costs continued to rise. The falling income figures are expected to affect spending data through the first half of the year as households adjust to smaller paychecks.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the federal government should follow the lead of Americans, who are taking thinner wallets in stride.

“It’ absurd to think that the government cannot get by with a little more than a 2 percent reduction in spending when every working American had to figure out how to make do with 2 percent less in their paychecks just last month," McConnell said.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/01/americans-absorb-36-percent-pay-cut-while-washington-fights-over-sequester-647959305/?cmpid=googextension#ixzz2MQWcKpjT

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Obama, his team struggling with accuracy when explaining impact of sequester cuts

Published March 02, 2013


President Obama and top administration officials are struggling with accuracy in explaining the impact of billions in federal budget cuts known as sequester that kicked in Saturday morning  -- even getting called out by a Capitol Hill superintendent about furloughs for support staffers.

Carlos Elias, the Capitol Building superintendent, sent out a memo Friday reminding staffers that the current sequestration plan does not include “reductions in force or furloughs” and that “pay and benefit of each of our employees will not be impacted.”

Though not directly mentioning Obama by name, Elias also said in the memo that a “high-ranking official said employees that clean and maintain the U.S. Capitol will receive a cut in pay.”

Hours before the memo was released, the president, in what appears to be the administration’s attempt to maximize the potential impact of the cuts, said at a press conference: “Starting tomorrow everybody here, all the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol. Now that Congress has left, somebody’s going to be vacuuming and cleaning those floors and throwing out the garbage. They’re going to have less pay. The janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut, and they’ve got to figure out how to manage that. That’s real.”

The cuts were proposed by the president and agreed upon by Congress in 2011 after Democrats and Republicans failed to agree on a more measured way to reduce the deficit. The $85 billion in cuts in 2013 to the Defense Department and domestic programs will be more like $45 billion when pro-rated this year.

Last weekend, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told CBS “there are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can’t come back this fall." However, Duncan appeared to backpedal Wednesday, coming up with just one example, a West Virginia county, and the disclaimer that “whether it’s all sequester-related, I don’t know.”

Officials in the state’s Kanawha County told The Washington Post that “transfer notices” were sent to at least 104 educators and they had more to do with how West Virginia allocates federal dollars designated for poor children.

PolitiFact, the Tampa Tribune’s fact-checking operation, has also reviewed officials’ sequester claims, concluding much has been “doomsday” and “worst-case-scenario” rhetoric.

The newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning groupexternal-link.png found that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s recent warning that air travel will be delayed because of Federal Aviation Administration cuts is just mostly true.

"Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco and others could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because we have fewer (air traffic) controllers on staff,” LaHood said last week.

Thought sequester requires across-the-board cuts with no shifting of money between agency departments, there appears to be some flexibility in make the cuts, including $600 million from the FAA, experts told PolitiFact.

Roughly one-third of FAA employees are controllers, so furloughs are possible. But agency Chairman Michael Huerta recently suggested cuts might start on the midnight shifts or at smaller and low-traffic facilities, which would at least in the short term spare the major airports.   


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/02/obama-his-team-struggling-with-accuracy-when-explaining-impact-sequester-cuts/?cmpid=googextension#ixzz2MQaYUd6I

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White House retreats from doomsday spending cuts predictions, but keeps blame on Republicans

Published March 03, 2013


  • sperling_gene_020411.jpg?ve=1

    FILE: Feb. 4, 2013: Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, speaks at the White House. (AP)

The White House retreated from its doomsday predictions Sunday about the impact of the $85 billion in federal spending cuts that have  kicked  in -- as Republican leaders appeared at least satisfied about delivering on their promise to limit government spending and hold down taxes.

Gene Sperling, the White House's top economic adviser, repeatedly said the cuts will not hurt as much on “Day One” as they will over the long haul.  

“Nobody ever suggested that this … was going to have all its impact in the first few days,” he told “NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It is a slow grind.”

His remarks are in contrast to weeks of President Obama and his Cabinet warning that the cuts will result in furloughs or pay cuts for middle-class wage-earners such as teachers, Capitol Hill janitors and air traffic controllers, which they said could cause 90-minutes delays at major U.S. airports.

Sperling declined at least twice to directly answer questions about whether the worst-case-scenario rhetoric has hurt the president’s credibility on the issue. He instead stuck to his argument that independent economists forecast the cuts will result in 750,000 fewer jobs and that corporate executives now anticipate slower economic growth.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told CNN’s “Face the Nation” Americans absorbed similar cuts once already this year.

"This modest reduction of 2.4 percent in spending over the next six months is a little more than the average American experienced just two months ago, when their own pay went down when the payroll tax holiday expired," the Kentucky Republican said.

Congress agreed to the cuts, known as sequester, in 2011 after failing to agree on more measure reductions -- to defense and some domestic spending. However, the cuts were intended to be so drastic that Democrats and Republicans would be forced to compromise before they started.

Still, Sperling rejected several Republican-backed plans and said no compromise would be reached unless the party agrees to tax increases.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., responded by saying Congress agreed to such increases in January “at the president’s request” and questioned why Obama and other Democrats will not agree to additional spending cuts.

She argued for potential pay freezes for federal employees and reforms to the federal food stamps program.

“There’s a whole host of ideas to cut spending” without jeopardizing security, Ayotte said on ABC’s “This Week.”

However, she also said she would consider tax reform that comes with entitlement reforms. But she would not agree to revenue increases to pay for additional government spending.

Earlier on the show, Sperling said Republican strategy is flawed because the cuts will take resources from several of the party’s most valued positions – including national defense and border security.

“This is not a win for Republicans,” Sperling said. “This cuts into military preparedness.”

He hinted Sunday at Democrats’ likely strategy for retaking the House in 2014.

“Our hope is as more Republicans start to see this pain in their own districts they will choose bipartisan compromise over this absolutist position,” he said.

Sperling also dismissed a plan backed by at least some Republicans to give the president some flexibility in the cuts.

“It’s like saying you have to cut off three of your fingers but you can choose which ones,” he said.

Sperling also addressed an e-mail sent to Bob Woodward in which he said The Washington Post reporter might "regret" writing a story in which he would say Obama has "moved the goal posts" on sequester.

He told ABC that he and Woodward share a mutual respect and he hopes they can "put this behind us."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that any tax increases were unacceptable.

 "I'm not going to do any more small deals,” he said. “I'm not going to raise taxes to fix sequestration. We don't need to raise taxes to fund the government."  

All of this comes ahead of a new, March 27 deadline that could spell a government shutdown and a debt-ceiling clash coming in May.

House Speaker John Boehner said his chamber would move this week to pass a measure to keep government open through Sept. 30.

McConnell said a government shutdown was unlikely to come from his side of Capitol Hill. The White House said it would dodge the shutdown and roll back the cuts, which hit domestic and defense spending in equal share.

Sperling said the White House is committed to trying to find a way that Republicans and Democrats can reach a compromise.

The billions in cuts apply to the remainder of fiscal 2013, which ends Sept. 30. But without a deal they will continue slashing government spending by about $1 trillion more over a 10-year period.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/03/top-white-house-adviser-blames-republicans-for-cuts-waves-doomsday-criticism/?cmpid=googextension#ixzz2MX5JjJIV

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Park ranger: Supervisors pushed sequester cuts that visitors would see

By Judson Berger

Published March 08, 2013


  • NPS_graphic.jpg

Another federal employee has come forward to claim the Obama administration resisted efforts to ease the impact of sequester.

A U.S. park ranger, who did not wish to be identified, told FoxNews.com that supervisors within the National Park Service overruled plans to deal with the budget cuts in a way that would have had minimal impact on the public. Instead, the source said, park staff were told to cancel special events and cut "interpretation services" -- the talks, tours and other education services provided by local park rangers.

"Apparently, they want the public to feel the pain," the ranger said.

The National Park Service is among many federal agencies warning of a major impact from the sequester cuts, which took effect last Friday. The agency has warned of delayed access to portions of Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks, closed campgrounds at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, reduced hours at the Grand Canyon visitor center and other ramifications.

The Obama administration says these cuts must be made in order to make the $85 billion in cuts from Congress' failure to avert the sequester. At the NPS, the agency was dealing with an across-the-board 5 percent cut.

Republicans have claimed the administration is making some cuts in order to exaggerate the impact. Lawmakers this past week revealed a leaked email from the Agriculture Department in which a field officer appeared to tell his team that he was instructed not to contradict the bosses' warnings about the cuts.

At the Park Service, the alleged incident occurred in one region and it's unclear whether other divisions were given similar guidance.

But a Park Service spokesman told FoxNews.com he's "never heard of guidance given like that."

The spokesman said that like other agencies, the Park Service was absorbing a 5 percent cut in just seven months. It was also being forced to cut seasonal employees, which make up a big part of the department's labor costs. Doing this, he explained, would impact "interpretive programs and public events."

But he denied the claim there was any directive to make those cuts more visible to the public.   

"There's not a ton of flexibility," he said, noting that most cuts will end up impacting visitors at some level. "Everything in parks is geared toward either the preservation of the resources or the needs of the visitors."

Joan Anzelmo, a former park superintendent in Colorado, also said that while it's possible one specific location was giving guidance to make sure the public sees the cuts, she doesn't think that was happening across the country. She also said any cuts to services and staffing would be made in large part because the parks budgets do not have much "wiggle room."

"I would be hard pressed to be able to make those cuts as a superintendent and not have an impact to the public," said Anzelmo, now a spokeswoman for The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

Nonetheless, memos have surfaced from National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis appearing to show the agency put a priority on telling the public how the cuts would affect them.

One Jan. 25 memo, which was obtained and published by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, showed Jarvis directing regional directors to carefully explain the "specific and tangible results" of the cuts as they submitted their cost-saving plans.

Jarvis wrote that agency officials expected the cuts to result in reduced visitor services, shortened seasons and other visible changes. "Parks must be specific in their description and include the number of visitors affected and an indication of the effect on nearby communities and businesses," he wrote. "All other organizations should describe impacts in terms of diminished performance and reduced administrative services and oversight."

Another memo, dated Feb. 26, railed against the "senseless, across-the-board budget cuts." Jarvis, in that memo, described "long-term and wide-ranging effects," while pledging to try to "mitigate" the impact.

The ranger who spoke to FoxNews.com, though, stressed that it was still just a 5 percent cut.

"It's obvious that they want the public to feel the pain in order to push this agenda that Washington wants," the ranger said. "A lot of these parks can absorb these cuts without the public's visit being affected."


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/08/park-ranger-claims-supervisors-pushed-sequester-cuts-that-visitors-would-notice/?cmpid=googextension#ixzz2N39WAz27

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White House suspends public tours, but first family trips in full swing

By Barnini Chakraborty

Published March 08, 2013


WASHINGTON –  Visitors to the nation's capital looking for a White House public tour are out of luck starting this weekend, courtesy of what the Secret Service says is its own decision to deal with the sequester cuts. 

But while the agency said it needed to pull officers off the tours for more pressing assignments, the budget ax didn't swing early or deep enough to curtail a host of recent Secret Service-chaperoned trips like President Obama's much-discussed Florida golf outing with Tiger Woods and first lady Michelle Obama's high-profile multi-city media appearances.

Obama's pricey golf outings have been a particular target for Republicans who see them as examples of what they say are the administration's rather selective concerns with running up the tab of Secret Service resources. On March 5, Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert filed an amendment to a House resolution that would prohibit federal funds from being spent on Obama's golf trips until public tours of the White House resumed. 

Gohmert referenced press reports pegging the cost of a recent Florida golf outing Obama took with Tiger Woods at $1 million. He also cited press reports saying 341 federal workers could have been spared furloughs if Obama had stayed home. 

"The president's travel expenses alone, for the golfing outing with Tiger Woods, would pay for a year of White House visits," Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer said Thursday. "So I suggest that perhaps he curtail the travel." 

The price tag and draw on Secret Service resources involving promotional campaigns like Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative is less clear. 

The Secret Service does not usually reveal how many agents and other resources are assigned to protective missions so it's not known just how much it cost taxpayers to ferry the first lady to events like her dance routine on Jimmy Fallon's show -- the highlight of a Feb. 22 media blitz in New York -- or her Feb. 27-28 visit to Mississippi, Missouri and her hometown of Chicago. 

Those trips would all have involved Secret Service details traveling with the first lady, as well as advance work by teams of agents on location. 

When asked by FoxNews.com if the first lady's office or schedule would be affected by the sequester, the White House issued a 100-word statement that made no mention of any specific cuts that might affect Michelle Obama's activities -- while making a generic reference to cuts affecting the "Executive Office of the President," which houses the first lady's office.  

Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, asked how the White House was cutting back, on Friday said there would be furloughs and pay cuts.

On the decision to close the tours, Press Secretary Jay Carney a day earlier said "the President and the first lady have throughout the time that they've been here made extraordinary efforts to make this the people's house, and it is extremely unfortunate that we have a situation like the sequester that compels the kinds of tradeoffs and decisions that this represents." 

It's also not clear what Secret Service resources were dedicated to a recent New York visit by 14-year-old Malia Obama, who was spotted dining with a group of friends at a New York restaurant shortly after President Obama signed off on the sequester. There were Secret Service agents in the restaurant, according to reports that said they stayed behind the group. 

How much overtime these types of assignments cost the Secret Service may be an area of concern. Donovan told FoxNews.com that overtime costs factored into the decision to shut down the White House tours. By taking the 30 officers involved in the tours and assigning them to high-priority security posts, officers normally on those duties can log fewer hours -- in turn saving the Secret Service money. 

"It reduces overtime costs overall for us," Donovan said. 

The tours will not be rescheduled and will stay frozen until further notice. 

That's bad news for groups like the sixth graders at St. Paul's Lutheran School in Iowa, who had been planning to take the White House tour on March 16. Fourteen students from that group and their teacher on Thursday took their frustrations to Facebook. In a web videoexternal-link.png, they held up handmade posters and chanted, "The White House is our house." 

Some Republicans in Congress expressed their displeasure with the cuts more forcefully. "Canceling all self-guided White House tours is the latest shameless political stunt by the president, who is twisting basic government efficiency into an extreme consequence," Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., said in a statement March 5.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/08/white-house-public-tours-on-hold-first-family-trips/?cmpid=googextension#ixzz2N39r8Keg

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