5 Scenes from a Sequestered America

Q: How bad is it going to get out there? A: Not very.


courtesy AFP

Unless you've been living under a rock for a while now, you know the basic story about the automatic budget cuts that kicked in on March 1. Depending on who you listen to and how they figure things, as much as $85 billion in planned spending is being cut from a $3.6 trillion budget in fiscal year 2013 (which ends on September 30, 2013).

But of course, that's not quite right. It overstates the amount of cuts by 48 percent, or about $41 billion. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) noted in February, just $44 billion is being cut in actual 2013 spending: "additional reductions in outlays attributable to the cuts in 2013 funding will occur in later years." 

The cuts are mainly coming from what's known as the discretionary budget, which covers stuff like defense spending and various sorts of programs whose spending totals are voted on every year. A small portion of the cuts will also come from mandatory spending, which covers entitlements such as Medicare. As the CBO does the math, of the $44 billion in cuts made this year, "Discretionary outlays will drop by $35 billion and mandatory spending will be reduced by $9 billion this year."

To hear the Obama adminstration tell it, the cuts are "Devastating" (that's the subject line in an email I just received from Stephanie Cutter of She continues:

Thanks to Republican obstructionism in Congress, the nation was forced into the sequester last Friday—a series of automatic and destructive budgets cuts that you and your neighbors are just beginning to feel. 

I'm not sure it was Republican obstructionism alone that caused the sequester. A quick review of the matter shows that not only does the president bear responsibility for insisting on automatic cuts as part of the August 2011 deal from whence all this sprang, both parties are up to their arses in obstructionism. And when it comes to exaggerating the effects of the sequester, the Obama adminstration is doing its best to make the Pinocchio industry the top sector of the American economy. In just the past seven days, the "Fact Checker" at The Washington Post—no ardent enemy of Obama's general agenda—has awarded the president and his pals three separate "four Pinocchio" ratings (the worst possible) for wild claims about the sequester's effects on congressional janitors and public school teachers. 

We're not quite yet a week into the sequester—"Devastating"!—but it's not too soon, is it, to ask how things are going?

Here are 5 scenes from a sequestered America. From a shuttered White House to a silenced Army band to the nation's airports to tinder-dry combustible cities to food programs aimed at poor kids and mothers, things are surprisingly…uneventful.

To read this as a single page, click here.

Next: Life in the Beggared White House…

courtesy Wikipedia

1. No Oval Office Tours, But Plenty of Hand-Crafted Notecards.

From Reuters comes the harsh news:

"Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform you that White House Tours will be cancelled effective Saturday, March 9, 2013, until further notice. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reschedule affected tours," the White House Visitors Office said in an email on Tuesday.

The good news? If you do get invited to the White House for a dinner, you'll get a really cool place care. There are no plans to trim the three White House employees who are employed as calligraphers and cost taxpayers more than a quarter of a million dollars a year in salary alone.

Next: The Band Won't Play On…

courtesy US Army

2. Military Band "Pershing's Own" Cancels Concerts.

The Washington Post reports that 

The famed U.S. Army band, "Pershing's Own," canceled its anniversary concert last weekend at the Strathmore Music Center in North Bethesda and is preparing to cancel other concerts as a result of federal budget uncertainties.

According to the paper, "Cutting hall rentals and other expenses would yield about $100,000 in savings." The Post also notes that, all told, the various branches of the military maintains about 148 bands with a combined annual budget of "about $388 million a year."

On the other hand, "essential" military operations—including personnel costs—are exempted from the sequester. Apparently, so is the dysfunctional and generally unnecessary F-35 fighter jet program, which will cost $1.5 trillion over the course of its sorry life.

Next: Airport Wait Times—or Maybe Just DHS Exaggerations—Are Getting Longer….

3. TSA Lines Are Getting Longer—But Only in the Future.

CBS News reports thus:

On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters that major airports had seen lines ballooning to 150-200 percent their normal size. The Transportation Security Administration later clarified that it was not yet seeing longer-than-normal checkpoint lines.

Got that? Lines are getting longer except where they're not. At least not yet. But you just wait and see.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal talked to honchos at various big airports. "We haven't seen any delays out of the ordinary," said a person from San Francisco's international airport (SFO). DHS officials had said that there were major delays at Miami's airport and at New York's JFK over the weekend, though "a JFK airport spokesman said he hadn't received any reports of unusually long lines since Friday," when the sequester began. And neither the Miami nor JFK spokesmen reported any trouble this Monday. It all sounds, what's the word?—"Devastating!"

Next: Is Sacremento Burning…?

4. Congressman Lights Own Pants on Fire.

In the run-up to the sequester, Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) announced that if sequester cuts to federal fire-fighting grants came to pass, his Sacremento constituents would be put at risk. "People are going to be unsafe, homes are going to burn. We have to act." To underscore his point, Bera said that his district alone would lose $1.5 million from a particular federal grant program, or the equivalent of "one engine company." You could practically smell the flesh burning.

While it's not clear yet whether those cuts either have happened or will ever happen, the fact-checking outfit Politifact dug into Bera's numbers deep enough to learn that in the worst case scenario, the amount of reduced funding in question would amount to just $300,000—or about one-fifth the amount Bera claimed. Even more damning for the congressman, Politifact calculated "the sequester could hold back two-tenths of 1 percent of the [Sacramento fire] department's entire budget."

So if you smell smoke around Rep. Ami Bera, relax. It's just his pants that are on fire.

Next: Welcome to the Sequester's Hunger Games!…

courtesy Flickr

5. Will Little Kids and Their Moms Starve?

Writing at The Daily Beast, Joel Berg blasts the "many members of Congress who label themselves as 'pro-life,' [yet who] would remove 600,000 mothers and infants from WIC." WIC is short for "Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children," which, according to the government, "serves low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and infants and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk."

The exact provenance and reliability of Berg's 600,000 number isn't clear from his story (it appears to come from the White House), but it seems heartless indeed to screw poor moms and their kids. According to an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) list generated last year, WIC is indeed on the list of programs subject to the sequester. Out of a total of $6.6 billion in funding for the program, $543 million is on the chopping block (go to page 28 of the OMB list). Does that mean that hungry mothers and children will have food snatched from their mouths? As with so much of the sequester, that's far from clear, either in the short-run or the long-run. WIC is available to people in households who live at or below 185 percent of the official poverty line. Using 2013 numbers, that comes to a household income of up to $21,000 for one person, $29,000 for two people, $36,000 for three, and $44,000 for four people. Those are not income figures we normally associate with people living on the edge of starvation or malnutrition.

Such calculations hardly mean that life is easy for the poor—even as they suggest that many programs associated with poverty serve many folks who are not particularly poor. In a 2009 study, Douglas J. Besharov of the American Enterprise Institute and Douglas M. Call of the University of Maryland, found that in 2006, 18 percent of WIC recipients lived in households whose incomes exceeded 185 percent of the poverty line. In fact, 5 percent of recipients lived in households with incomes of 300 percent over the poverty line. Besharov and Call write that, using 2006 data, "between 74 and 81 percent of all American infants would be WIC eligible (emphasis in original).

Is it realistic to assume that four out of five kinds under the age of five live in families that need WIC? Certainly not.

And it's just as likely that even programs designed for the poor—just like White House tours and Army marching bands and federal grants to fire departments—can be trimmed without turning America into a savage nation of all against all.

NEXT: Ill. Governor Blames Lawmakers for Pension Crisis

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  1. It’s total chaos here in Tampa, with martial law barely able to maintain even a semblance of order. I had to siphon gas from an abandoned truck just to get to work.

    1. Work? My building was looted and completely destroyed.

      It’s chaos out here.

      1. St. Louis is a smoldering ruin, with shootouts everywhere and corpses littering the streets. Of course, it’s always like that here.

    2. Its so bad that I think the Vice President has advised everyone to have a shotgun and shoot through the door if they think they are in danger

      1. I do that randomly anyways. Just in case.

      2. Joe Hairplugs should have a chat with Oscar Pistorius how that works out.

    3. Luckily, lawmakers have been pouring in from across the state to stabilize Tallahassee.

    4. I had to siphon gas from an abandoned truck just to get to work.

      Ha! You’ve got it good in Tampa… where I live, things be so tough, we don’t even have abandoned vehicles!

      1. I know–we stole them.

    1. My favorite doom song:…..w&index=29

  2. The sequester sneaked into my room last night and fondled my genitals.

    1. I’m liking this sequester thing more and more…

    2. The sequester is Warty?

      1. It’s an alias.

    3. the sequester jester fingered my anus, without lube…

      1. shocking!

  3. It’s not much better in Pittsburgh. The Three Rivers most likely will run red with the blood of the poor and disabled, and, thanks to the sequester, the Pirates will probably have another losing season. Even worse, Big Ben will have to cut back to molesting just one woman a week. Oh the humanity!

    1. Buildings are crumbling here in Cleveland. Roads have fallen apart. Roving gangs shoot old ladies. Industry has shut down. The river is on fire. The lake is draining… So, as we call it… Thursday.

  4. Pikers at an Exhibition

  5. Out of a total of $6.6 billion in funding for the program, $543 billion is on the chopping block


    1. It now says “million.” Fixed Typo?

      1. looks like it

        1. Made you look like a FOOL.

          1. Why? cuz i found a typo 20 secs before Nick did?

    2. The sequester leaves no more funding for the laws of the universe. Mathematics is no more.

      1. Thank God. I can drop calculus class.

  6. “Thanks to Republican obstructionism in Congress”

    Eat shit and die, bitch.

    1. Boehner and McConnell are like extremist radical ancap libertarians.

      1. Words and concepts have long since ceased to mean anything. I read in the comments section of a Washington Post article today that Robert Moses — Robert Moses! — was an example of the profit motive run amok.

        1. Not only does power corrupt, it also distorts reality. A lot.

    2. She should just go right into MILF bukkake in 2017. She obviously threw away her sense of shame long ago.

  7. I have a feeling that captain zero’s shenanigans over the sequester are just a warm up performance. Facing no election getting a pass from most of the press….we aint seen nuthin’ yet.

    1. “Facing no election getting a pass from most of the press….we aint seen nuthin’ yet.”

      Campaigning 24/7, 365!
      Al campaign, all the time!

      1. Bachman-Turner Overdrive??

  8. Bella. I agree that Philip`s posting is unbelievable… on monday I got a new Car from having made $7552 this past 5 weeks and over ten-grand this past munth. it’s by-far the easiest work Ive had. I actually started seven months/ago and practically straight away startad making over $72 per/hr. I follow this website,

    1. No wai, fer reelz! Kewl!

    2. I know Chicago’s bad, but I didn’t realize Nicole has been reduced to spamming H&R about her sex-cam work.

  9. it seems heartless indeed to screw poor moms and their kids

    “Heartless”, “awesome” – tom-ay-to, tom-ah-to…

  10. Holy shit you guys, the Federal department holding the San Andreas fault at bay has been completely sequestered. We’ve had earthquakes ranging from 3.6 to 11.0 every hour since the sequester. Well we estimate, anyway, since the USGS’s budget growth for next year was reduced by 2.6%, there’s no more money for seismograph ink.

    Also, we think the earthquakes are coming every hour. But all the clocks have stopped since the sequester.

    1. We’re having sinkholes due to the federal government no longer pumping money into the ground to support everything.

      1. All the federal spending that made the LA climate so pleasant is gone, ProLib. We’re starting to see actual weather here. It’s total chaos.

        1. We were supposed to have snow today, but I don’t see any. I guess the big, bad sequester cut away our snow budget.

        2. There’s probably not a snowplow to be found in LA, huh?

          1. That’s okay. The cops still have tanks and helicopters.

        3. I hear there are predictions that water will fall from the sky in LA tomorrow, if we were not living through sequestrapocalypse I would not believe such a thing.

          1. Water. . .from the sky?

            1. There’s no such thing, ProLib. Every Angeleno knows that water comes from Oregon and Colorado.

              1. No, it comes from the toilet.

    2. Huh, nothing is happening where I live, because the sequester has hit us so hard, time has actually come to a halt. I’m posting this from the past.

  11. article = article.replace(“place care”, “place card”)

  12. things are surprisingly…uneventful

    You mean except for that North Korean regiment that has successfully invaded parts of Dallas, right? Thanks to the sequester, a shotgun is the only thing standing between me and certain death.

    1. If the Norks want to kidnap Jerry Jones and take him back to DPRK, I’d almost be OK with it.

      Pesky non-aggression principle!

      1. I told the soldiers he was the most powerful man in Dallas and sent them his direction. Hopefully the Norks will leave me alone…for tonight.

  13. Thanks to Republican obstructionism in Congress, the nation was forced into the sequester last Friday

    This is really beginning to make me physically ill. How long can you keep blaming someone else and not be called a “Punk-Ass-Bitch”? He’s been president for 4 years and he still can’t get a simple budget through Congress? If he is really this bad of a “leader”, he needs to resign. Srsly.

    And, with all of the airport delays, when do they start issuing travel restrictions? Currently, if you are on a list, you are not allowed to fly. Soon, you need to be on a list to be able to fly.

    1. He’s a racist, affirmative action, inarticulate without a teleprompter, Punk-Ass-Bitch.

    2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the law requiring a federal budget was passed during the Harding / Coolidge administration. At that time federal appropriations were made ad hoc, department by department. Spending was impossible to track or limit and was getting out of hand. A budget made possible management of the government at least possible.

      Operating without a budget today allows ad hoc appropriations that are very difficult to track and limit. A perfect world for Obama and crew. This will continue for some time.

  14. You guys I just realized something. With the federal budget completely sequestered, what is going to happen to the internet pixel supply?

    1. That’s a good question, Hugh, especially coming from someone like you, you know, a total f

    2. I bought a 3D printer so I can make my own internet pixels.

      1. I bought my pixels with bitcoins so ha!

    3. The nation’s supply of LOLCats will be severely restricted to a need-only basis.

    4. Stick to scalable vector graphics.

      1. What, ASCII art gets the shaft?

        1. You still have a Commodore 64, don’t you?

          1. *looks around nervously*

  15. In Ohio we had the most snow last night that we’ve had all year so the republicans are now causing global warming because scientists say that global warming causes more snow except when it causes less snow.

    1. Except of course when it’s exactly the same amount of snow. Then it’s just a momentary lapse until the global warming climate change kicks into high gear.

    2. Denier!!!!. Global Warming not only causes more or less snow it also causes the same amount of snow.

  16. Who will think of the Coboy Poets?

    1. I consider myself something of a Cobray Poet.

  17. like Vincent implied I’m in shock that a mom able to make $6936 in 1 month on the computer. have you seen this site link

  18. This “sequester” episode is very strange. Even though he’s had some unfavorable polls recently, Obama can’t possibly come out of this the big loser. If the economy goes bad, he can blame Republicans who embraced the sequester cuts. If it gets better (which it seems to be), that’s always good for the president. Republicans are embracing it because they like cuts, and it’s cuts, but they’re a generation removed from the smart ones who knew that the first rule about enacting your ideological agenda is not to have your fingerprints on it. If a Republican president gets elected this strange, new version of the GOP might actually do what it has always said it’s gonna do. That’s the scariest thought of all–Republicans who aren’t just fiscal hawks when a Democrat is in the White House.

    1. If my business was doing poorly and I hired a manager to come in and change things and make it profitable again, but all he did was blame the competition and the customers, and what not, I would fire his fucking ass.

      Blaming other people for your own inadequacies only gets you so far. Eventually, people realize you have no idea WTF you are doing. Obama’s entire presidency has been nothing but blaming other people and making himself look like a victim.

      Yo, FUCK him.

      1. For progressives, successfully blaming a problem on somebody else IS solving it.

        Obama has proven that you can continue to fool enough of the people enough of the time.

    2. That’s the scariest thought of all–Republicans who aren’t just fiscal hawks when a Democrat is in the White House.

      It’s Tony, so this can’t be sarcasm. Ergo, he really thinks that politicians that aren’t lying and aren’t growing the government are “the scariest thought of all”.

      1. News as this may be to Republicans and libertarians, but the “size” of government isn’t the only concern in the universe.

        1. OF COURSE, size matters.

      2. “It’s Tony, so this can’t be sarcasm.”
        Abysmal ignorance. That’s all.

        1. its Tony, fuck him and his nanny

    3. Anyone else get the feeling that Tony is really disappointed that the sequester didn’t cause a bunch of mayhem and death?

      I do, but I guess we’er talking about the same type of person who gets a giant shiny erection every time a bunch of kids gets shot up.

      1. General Butt Naked| 3.6.13 @ 6:35PM |#
        “Anyone else get the feeling that Tony is really disappointed that the sequester didn’t cause a bunch of mayhem and death?”

        Pretty sure he’s in shock since the sleazebag-in-chief told him the world was ending and it *DIDN’T*!

        1. Have you noticed how far the goalposts have been moved back in the media’s reporting of this thing?

          The stories from last week echoed Dear Leader’s doom and gloom predictions, now they echo his doom and gloom (in a couple of months, you watch!) predictions.

          1. “Some things will get worse!”
            See, predictions are easy.

          2. The sad thing is Tony is right. Anything happens to the economy or anything related to something that was cut by the sequestration it will be blamed by Obama on the sequestration and the Republicans. And the press and Tony will parrot what he says as the absolute truth. And they will ignore any evidence to the contrary.

            1. Not an Economist| 3.6.13 @ 7:32PM |#
              “The sad thing is Tony is right.”

              True enough. Obozo could commit buggery on the platz at noon, and the press would claim it to be some sort of ‘diversity affirmation’.
              Liars gonna lie.

            2. I think that people that aren’t partisan bluebags, but maybe voted for the president are getting sick of the excuses. He’s spent the last 5 years blaming republicans for his failure of an administration, I’d argue that he’s got another year before his numbers start to dip (especially if the economy still sux).

              Also, I think Obama won reelection not because of some overwhelming popularity he possesses, but rather his limp opponent. I said the same thing about Bush and look what happened to him.

      2. tony jerks off to mass shootings and drone attacks

    4. The Republicans (with a few exceptions) are ok with the weak ass sequester because they’re trying to fool their base into thinking they’re actually doing something meaningful. And how is this gonna tank the economy when total federal spending is still increasing?

  19. You think you’re tough for eating beans every day? There’s half a million scarecrows in Denver who’d give anything for one mouthful of what you got. They’ve been under siege for about three months. They live on rats and sawdust bread and sometimes… on each other. At night, the pyres for the dead light up the sky. It’s medieval.

    1. That was a great movie and then they re-made it. With Chinese North Koreans….

      1. I never bothered to watch the re-make. what would be the point. Sinks about using the Norks but you wouldn’t want to offend the people who loan you money. Unless of course you figure out how to live within your means. NAH.

    2. Someone just posted that scene the other day.

  20. I like the new “read this as a single page” link.

    I didn’t appreciate the Janet Napolitano image while I was eating.

    1. They call that the Janet diet. Slideshow of random Janet Napitano and Janet Reno pics while you eat.

  21. Reason’s Nick Gillespie, who notes that just this morning he received an Obama fundraising email that called the automatic budget cuts that went into effect on March 1 “Devastating.”

    Nick made a few donations back in 2008 and 2012 and now they just won’t leave him alone.

  22. If you’re pro life, you have to agree to every single thing in life that theoretically sustains life, meaning you’re fine and dandy with the concept of socialism.

    If you’re pro choice, then you have to aligned with the darwinists and libertarians because you can’t snuff out a life in your own belly and then advocate for the government to spend out of their minds to prop up the living.

    You learn something new from the internet everyday.

  23. just before I saw the check of $8145, I didnt believe that…my… friend was like they say realy bringing home money part-time from there labtop.. there aunts neighbour has been doing this less than 23 months and just now cleared the morgage on there cottage and bourt a gorgeous Lancia. read more at,

  24. Gotta love those bought and paid for politicians!

  25. Great article. It’s Sacramento not Sacremento.

  26. Anyone who listens to Marketplace on NPR has heard them relentlessly pound the sequestration “cuts” like it’s the worst thing ever. Because you know, if the feds spent only a few percent more than they spent last year, the the world will end.

  27. my best friend’s step-aunt makes $87 every hour on the computer. She has been laid off for 9 months but last month her check was $12850 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this web site and go to home tab….

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  37. The sequester sneaked into my room last night and fondled my genitals.

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