Sequester is Here, Where’s the Doom

Posted on March 5, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

By Scott Orr

President Barack Obama speaks to members of the media at the start of a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, March 4.

President Barack Obama speaks to members of the media at the start of a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, March 4.

What if sequestration took place and nobody noticed?

That’s what it looked like over the weekend as $85 billion in automatic federal budget reductions went into effect. Nothing much happened, but that’s not because the forced federal spending cuts are harmless, it’s because it’s going to take a while for them to sink in and begin hurting the economy and costing jobs.

When that happens, there is little doubt that the Congress and the administration will get down to business and reach an agreement, probably a short-term one that will set up yet another doomsday date in the not too distant future. This is called kicking the can down the road.

President Obama knows it will take some time for pain to set in and that’s why he is taking a step back from the doom and gloom rhetoric, at least for now. At a cabinet meeting the other day, the president said the sequester is a major concern, but that his administration would deal with it.

He pointedly noted that the budget mess was not the only thing on the cabinet meeting’s agenda.

“One of the things that I’ve instructed not just my White House but every agency is to make sure that, regardless of some of the challenges that they may face because of sequestration, we’re not going to stop working on behalf of the American people to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to continue to grow this economy and improve people’s prospects,” Obama said.

Obama also promised to engage with Republicans in pursuit of a compromise solution.

“And so I will continue to seek out partners on the other side of the aisle so that we can create the kind of balanced approach of spending cuts, revenues, entitlement reform that everybody knows is the right way to do things,” he said.

These cuts were designed to be so politically distasteful, that Congress would be forced to act, or face the wrath of voters whose roads are crumbling, planes are delayed and jobs are eliminated. But Congress still couldn’t bring itself to act.

What is needed is not this kind of across the board slashing at discretionary funds, but a thoughtful long-term budget tightening that looks at discretionary, but also entitlement, spending.

Last week, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said just that.

“The Congress and the Administration should consider replacing the sharp, front loaded spending cuts required by the sequestration with policies that reduce the federal deficit more gradually in the near term but more substantially in the longer run,” Bernanke said in testimony before a Senate Committee.

“Such an approach could lessen the near-term fiscal headwinds facing the recovery while more effectively addressing the longer-term imbalances in the federal budget,” he said.

But don’t expect Congress to do anything right away, though they may have to reckon with fall-out from the sequester sooner than they think.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday that U.S. airports, including Los Angeles International and O’Hare International in Chicago, are already experiencing delays in customs lines because of the elimination of overtime. Once furloughs are put in place, those problems will get worse.

Expect the chorus of outrage to start in the state capitals, where federal aid for education, infrastructure and other programs will form an early pressure point.

Everyone supports cutting federal spending, but this is not the way to do it.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at


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[…] meanwhile, are showing no sign of wavering on the issue, especially since the sequester has yet to have measurable impacts on the economy. The pain, job cuts and concomitant drag on the economy could still be months […]

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