Written by Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
The odds that $85 billion in “unthinkable, draconian” sequestration spending cuts will go into effect in March as scheduled are looking better. The odds must be getting better because, as if on cue, the horror stories have commenced.
A perfect example is an article in the Washington Post that details the angst and suffering being experienced by federal bureaucrats and other taxpayer dependents over the mere possibility that the “drastic” cuts will occur. You see, the uncertainty surrounding the issue has forced government employees to draw up contingency plans. Contingency plans? Oh, the humanity!
From the article:
Sequestration, as the law is known, has sent agencies scrambling to buffer themselves, spending time and money that ultimately may be for naught. Even if cuts take effect, it might not be for long — making the hiring freezes, canceled training, deferred projects, and lengthy planning for furloughs and other contingencies an exercise in inefficiency.
I certainly believe that Washington’s bouncing from one manufactured fiscal crisis to the next is detrimental to the economy, but my sympathy lies with the private sector – not the federal bureaucracy. It’s the private sector that has been suffering under the constant uncertainty surrounding federal tax and regulatory policy. And let’s not forget that there is no public sector without the private sector – the former existing entirely at the latter’s expense.
Yet, what follows in the Post article is boo-hoo after boo-hoo without the slightest regard to those who are paying for it or whether the whiner’s agency could use some belt-tightening:
“There will be impacts for every decision we make,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said. The service is deferring maintenance to conserve money “so we can train a pilot to go to Afghanistan” if cuts of up to 10 percent go through. “Eventually we will have to fix that roof, but at that point it won’t be maintenance.”
The United States military shouldn’t be in Afghanistan. There, problem solved. Disagree? Well, then take a look at this report from Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) staff on how the Pentagon spends your money.
This time around, a frustrated senior executive at the Department of Homeland Security said he and his staff have spent countless hours remaking budgets for every contingency. “First we were told not to develop plans” for sequestration, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak frankly. “Then we spent seven days a week coming up with them and [the cuts] got postponed. Now we’re doing it all over with new targets. It’s taking away from what we need to get done.”
Agencies may be frustrated with all the back-and-forth, but companies and researchers in line for government funding are fuming. “All they can say when I check with them is, ‘You’re still being considered for funding, but we can’t move forward at this time,’” said Stephen Higgins, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Vermont awaiting about $19 million in two grants from the National Institutes of Health to study chronic disease and smoking. “When [Congress] punted on sequestration, I knew I just took it on the chin.”
Prof. Higgins is taking it on the chin? A lot of people who will be filing a federal tax return in the coming months are about to do the same. And although I can’t comment on the merits of Prof. Higgins’ study, the NIH is the same outfit that has financed studies on chimpanzee feces flinging and how cocaine enhances the sex drive of Japanese quail.
The article goes on to supply quotes from whiner after whiner: a defense contractor, an employee from a Social Security office, a spokesman for the federal courts system, a reservist with the Air Force, and, finally, a director at the National Weather Service.
That raises a question: where did the author of the piece find all of these people to supply her with quotes that just happened to perfectly fit the narrative?