Sequester Fearmongering from Obama Administration Goes Beyond the Facts

The Associated Press has an interesting take on how the sequester fearmongering from the Obama adminstration pretends to a knowledge of a scary tomorrow that it does not really have.

Highlights:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says teacher layoffs have already begun, but he has not backed up that claim and school administrators say no pink slips are expected before May, for the next school year...

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the money crunch means the national parks system will be hit with a "perfect storm."

But perish the thought of yellow police tape around Yellowstone. It's far from settled that parks would close. Officials said to expect reduced operating hours, fewer rangers, bathrooms that might be locked and trash that might not be collected as often....

And there is a lot of improbable precision in administration statements about what could happen: more than 373,000 seriously ill people losing mental health services, 600,000 low-income pregnant women and new mothers losing food aid and nutrition education, 1,200 fewer inspections of dangerous work sites, 125,000 poor households going without vouchers, and much more.

"These numbers are just numbers thrown out into the thin air with no anchor, and I think they don't provoke the outrage or concern that the Obama administration seeks," said Paul Light, a New York University professor who specializes in the federal bureaucracy and budget....

in practice, through all the layers of bureaucracy and the everyday smoke and mirrors of the federal budget, there is rarely a direct and measurable correlation between a federal dollar and its effect on the ground.

That has meant a lot of tenuous "could happen" warnings by the administration, not so much "will happen" evidence.

So it was in Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' letter to Congress laying out likely consequences of the spending cuts for her agency's operations. She said the sequester "could" compromise the well-being of more than 373,000 people who "potentially" would not get needed mental health services, which in turn "could result" in more hospitalizations and homelessness.

Duncan left himself less wiggle room. "This stuff is real," he said last week. "Schools are already starting to give teachers notices."

Asked to provide backup for Duncan's assertion, spokesman Daren Briscoe said it was based on "an unspecified call he was on with unnamed persons," and the secretary might not be comfortable sharing details.....

Remember the "government shutdown" of the '90s, for some perspective?

In the partial government shutdown during his presidency, Bill Clinton and his officials told some tall tales and sketched dark scenarios that didn't come to pass, though some might have if the crisis had lasted weeks or months longer. The shutdown played out over two installments totaling 26 days from mid-November 1995 to early January 1996.

National park properties closed (yes, even the Washington Monument), passport and federal mortgage insurance processing were disrupted and toxic waste cleanup stalled as hundreds of thousands of federal workers went idle, paid retroactively later. But states, communities and private groups stepped up to tide over the neediest, keeping Meals on Wheels rolling with their own resources, for example, until Clinton found emergency money to cover the costs. Warnings that Medicare treatment would be withheld proved unfounded, and veterans got their care.

Contractors, who perform many key services for government, kept working for IOUs. A claim by the government that deportations "have virtually ended" was not so.

The Justice Department told the story of a Florida gas station rejecting the government-issued credit card of a drug-enforcement agent to illustrate the indignity of it all.

But the reality was humdrum: The card had merely expired.

Matt Welch and J.D. Tuccille on overhyping sequester nightmares.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    They should needlessly sack teachers and close parks and starve old people just to prove their dire warnings were true. That will teach everyone.

  • Marshall Gill||

    What do you mean "needlessly"?

  • Brandon||

    They probably will.

  • wareagle||

    i'm ready to sequester the sequester.

  • John||

    Duncan left himself less wiggle room. "This stuff is real," he said last week. "Schools are already starting to give teachers notices."

    One can only hope.

  • Ron||

    Well the republicans are running scared, has anybody seen this possible abdication of power to the Leader

    http://www.politico.com/story/.....html?hp=l1

  • ChrisN||

    Stay classy, Obama.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Did you get a release from Pro Libertate before using his photo?

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's one of my minions, not me. Note the improper use of the trademarked slogan. No one pays any attention to the style guide, dammit.

  • ChrisN||

    I guess this means my civil-rights inspired, feminist-run but union controlled gender-neutral Cash 4 Clunkers Part Deux camp, where good cars go to die on park lands and homeless veterans are paid in food stamps...

    ...is a no go?

    Damn it all to hell.

    I'll guess I'll go just raise some friggin' Alpacas.

  • Proprietist||

    Dear Chris N.,
    Unfortunately we can't give you a permit to start your alpaca farm because our exotic livestock licensing division was completely shut down thanks to the sequestration. Our enforcement wing will still be assessing harsh penalties in case you decide to start one without the permission you can't get. Have a nice day.
    - The Department of Agriculture

  • Pro Libertate||

    We have some alpaca ranches near us.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    They taste like lamb.

  • Pro Libertate||

    They're primarily raised for their wool, aren't they?

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    Primarily yes. Doesn't mean you can't eat them.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm not objecting to it, just throwing out a comment. Now if you were talking about fabricating human flesh and eating it, well, I'm on record as being "against."

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    A friend of mine has a critter dinner every year which is where I had the alpaca. Now I'm thinking for this summer I should suggest to him to see if he can get python added to the menu.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Not just python. Lots of python. Python as the salad, main course, side, and dessert. Fermented python blood in place of wine. Python.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Asked to provide backup for Duncan's assertion, spokesman Daren Briscoe said it was based on "an unspecified call he was on with unnamed persons," and the secretary might not be comfortable sharing details.....

    Inside Briscoe's head - "Damn, they caught that one!"

  • Raven Nation||

    Administration's claims make sense because there are no useless parts of the government like, you know, Department of Education SWAT teams:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....75967.html

    OR generally bizzare uses of tax money:

    http://money.msn.com/investing.....ment-waste

  • Rich||

    Asked to provide backup for Duncan's assertion, spokesman Daren Briscoe said it was based on "an unspecified call he was on with unnamed persons," and the secretary might not be comfortable sharing details.....

    Good grief, Arne. Why don't you just claim it's classified and be done with it?

  • DaveAnthony||

    Given how much they seem to be able to accomplish with 44 billion dollars, I have an alternative proposal:

    They keep the 44 billion and we cut the other 3.55 trillion.

  • James Sinclair||

    From one of the state-specific fear-mongering documents on the White House website:
    Florida will lose about $2.3 million in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning around 78,960 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.

    I've spent the last half-hour trying to figure out where that number came from, and I've gotten nowhere. It seems to refer to the funding for the state's Regional Workforce Boards, which, according to the most recent report (2011), served 67,209 people (26,148 of whom had a "positive outcome"!). So, Obama's 79K is a bit high.

    My best guess is that they just divided the percentage of the budget being cut by the overall unemployment number, on the asinine assumption that every unemployed person goes to the government for help finding a job.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement