"Devastating" Sequester Cuts Cost a Total of One (1) Federal Job!


Remember last year when everyone was talking about "devastating" cuts to the federal budget due to "sequestration"?

As then White House flack and now-CNN Crossfire host Stephanie Cutter defined sequestration last spring, it amounted to a "series of automatic and destructive budgets cuts that you and your neighbors are just beginning to feel."

The horror, the horror: White House tours canceled, military bands not playing, little kids starving, planes dropping from skies (not that they would have had passengers, what with the TSA lines getting infinite due to budget cuts…).

Yeah, no. Not only were those cuts removed through a bipartisan budget deal passed early in 2014, they were hardly draconian to begin with. The cuts slated for last year totaled $44 billion in a $3.5 trillion budget, plus a slightly lower amount for this year and going forward.

So how many federal employees got shitcanned because of reduced funds in 2013? A hundred thousand? A million? More? According to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, a grand total of one (1), in the Department of Justice's Parole Commission.



As Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) explains:

"Despite relentless warnings about the dire consequences of sequestration's budget cuts, it appears sequestration resulted in only one layoff.  While that's good news for federal employees and other workers, it is devastating to the credibility of Washington politicians and administration officials who spent months – and millions of dollars – engaging in a coordinated multi-agency cabinet-level public relations campaign to scare the American people.  Taxpayers expect us to root our predictions in fact, not ideology and spin.  The facts seem to say the experts underestimated sequestration's impact by between 99,999 and 1,599,999 jobs, according to two frequently-cited estimates by Goldman Sachs and the Congressional Budget Office,"

"Today, I'm sending a letter to the Office of Management and Budget with the hope of soliciting a fact-based explanation for the American people.  The American people deserve to know the truth, especially if it suggests politicians' favorite programs can endure far more in budget cuts than sequestration imposed," Dr. Coburn added.

Coburn's letter is here. Reason interview with him about "how both parties bankrupted America" here.

The investigators looked at 23 federal agencies and found that

19 agencies reported curtailing hiring; 16 reported rescoping or delaying contracts or grants for core mission activities; 19 reported reducing employee training; 20 reported reducing employee travel; and 7 reported furloughing more than 770,000 employees from 1 to 7 days.

Read the whole report here.

Hat Tip: Washington Free Beacon.

Watch "5 Sequester Facts to Know Before Committing Suicide," which we released last year and includes a great medley of President Obama assuring us that "thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off," that air traffic and airport security will take it on the chin, and "that these cuts will set back medical science for a generation."

NEXT: Jesse Walker Offers a Short History of Game Panics

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  1. Plenty of contractors got axed. And they’re the only ones who do any actual work anyway.

    1. Were they the sort of contractors who’s ‘actual work’ resulted in unbridled successes like the Osprey, the JSF, and the Obamacare Website?

      Or the sort of contractors who’s actual work results in unbridled successes like the NSA’s Utah Data Center?

      Or was it the more predictable, companies stamping out $100 bomb-proof plates of ceramic-steel that protect our troops from IEDs that felt the cuts most?

      My tears are precious, I need to be sure they get to the rightful recipients.

  2. Yeah, but he really tied together the office.


  4. The cuts slated for last year totaled $44 billion in a $3.5 trillion budget, plus a slightly lower amount for this year and going forward.

    Roughly one tenth of one per cent, if my rudimentary math skills haven’t completely failed me.

    Oh, devastation! Oh, RUIN!
    How I envy the dead their secure, peaceful slumber.

    1. I have to use Excel whenever it comes to federal budgets – too many zeroes and commas for a calculator or my brain.

  5. Dammit! I wanted that Parole Commissioner job!

    I had “Yes” and “No” rubber stamps made and everything.

    1. I thought for sure the guy getting fired would have been the EPA agent downloading porn for 6 hours a day. Wrong again.

  6. “The facts seem to say the experts underestimated sequestration’s impact by between 99,999 and 1,599,999 jobs, ”

    Didn’t they OVERestimate the impact?

  7. I guess the question would be: what jobs exactly were those predictions about? Were the job-loss predictions solely about employees in the federal civil service, or did they include contractors and/or the knock-on effects in the larger communities?

    There’s also the question of whether the sequester caused the government to decide not to fill vacated positions that they otherwise would have. Several agencies in the DC area instituted hiring freezes throughout most of fiscal year 2013, especially in the Defense Department.

    1. I was wondering the same. There is something like 2M federal civilian employees (excluding post office), so I seriously doubt the usually pretty sober CBO was predicting a 1.6M in the federal civilian workforce.

      1. They probably mean the equivalent of 1.6 million FTE jobs. So for those guys who got furloughed, if we assume an average of 3 days each that is the equivalent of about 9000 full time jobs worth of lost wages

  8. These guys beat me to it. My mother-in-law works for a military contractor, and she says a lot of contractors lost jobs. Aside from that, this is hilarious.

  9. Government will shrink only after we have a debt crisis. A debt crisis is a decade off. My advice is to enjoy the suck, invest in hard assets and develop useful skills. Don’t hate the player; hate the game.

    1. invest in hard assets and develop useful skills

      This. I’m now into reloading, among other things…

    2. A debt crisis is a decade off.

      I think its better than even odds that the next recession will set off a debt crisis.

      The dominos are lined up, and we have none of the tools that we used to have for cushioning/postponing the full impact. The Fed shot its wad on the last one, is still essentially at the zero bound for interest rates, and will be staring the inflation/liquidity trap right in the face next time.

  10. Expecting to see this news reported nowhere else.

  11. Nothing. Left. to CUT.

  12. I can’t believe that the networks haven’t made the one person laid off a household name by now. You know, “The Face of the Sequester Cuts: A Special Report with Soledad O’Brien” or something like that. Odds are the person would be a minority too, which would lead to follow up reports on how the “Republican imposed” sequester had a disparate impact on minorities.

  13. Only one person was laid off, but as others have said there were contractors who go told they were no longer needed. There were also a lot of positions eliminated. People were retiring left and right around here. They were giving Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA)/Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay (VSIP). There were several in my office alone that took these. Technically, they cannot backfill those positions except by someone 2 grades lower. There were GS-14/15s that took it, but they did backfill those (basically division chiefs and directors).

    They have not backfilled some of the GS-11 and 12 positions I’ve seen that took those. So, there were jobs eliminated. I’ve also heard of others being RIF’d from from job and placed into an open slot somewhere else.

    This was just Army. I don’t know about the rest of DOD, and I certainly don’t know of any other agencies.

  14. I’ll be waiting for the update when the author realizes he read that chart wrong. One DEPARTMENT had layoffs, not one JOB.

    1. Beat me to it – it says right there on the bottom that that’s the count of agencies reporting taking that measure, not the number of individuals affected.

      The basic thesis (“the supposedly devastating sequester didn’t make a lot of Federal employees unemployed”) stands, but it’s still very sloppy work.

    2. From page 129 of the pdf linked, this is the only mention of direct reductions I found:

      Additionally, DOJ officials reported that one DOJ
      component?the U.S. Parole Commission?implemented a reduction in
      force of one employee to achieve partial savings required by sequestration
      in fiscal year 2013.

      Fwiw, it is a fair point that freezes and induced early retirement may have reduced long term employment in areas, though you didn’t mention it.

  15. I was a federal employee working for the Department of the Interior, National Parks Service. I lost my job to the sequester. Is this article about me? Or is this article not entirely factual. Unfortunately, I think Nick G got this wrong. A lot more than 1 guy lost his job, and its insulting that this article marginalizes the consequences of such immature leadership from our government.

    1. If we had mature leadership, far more people would have lost their jobs.

      As it stands, a small number of federal government employees and contractors were knocked of the $3.8 trillion a year federal government gravy train and you think that such cuts are the result of immature leadership?

  16. Is that chart the only source of the claim that only one employee was fired? The bottom of the chart enumerates the number of agencies taking the action, not employees affected.

    1. Sorry, I overlooked the previous comments to the same effect.

  17. ” We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.”

    Can you delete the whole article? I like to report it as abuse on common sense and intelligence.

  18. Seriously? Get a grip folks & the writer of this article. The sequester cut funding. Funding to research, every state, education from state to universities etc. Each organization and state and program that had these massive cuts had to decide what they were going to cut because they no longer had money to fund everything. SO….. STATES CUT TEACHERS JOBS, CLOSED SOME SCHOOLS…. and research cuts and so on. These massive job cuts were by states STATE JOBS NOT FEDERAL. BUT…. it was because the feds cut their funding which paid for it. Add to this the feds reduced hours of fed employees without pay and so on. Noone ever said the feds were cutting jobs…. they were causing everyone else to cut jobs, the feds were just cutting hours massively.

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