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Vince Vitrano: Not For Broadcast

In Washington, Even More is Less

CREATED Feb 26, 2013
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Anyone else confused about the sequester? Math was never my strong suit, but even after interviewing Brian Deese, the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council yesterday, I still don’t have some questions answered. My very brief interview is above. As I said to him, I had so many more questions.

Let me see if I can get us to stipulate to a few facts, and I understand in this highly partisan environment, even the facts are up for debate. That’s why I’ve consulted multiple sources for all this information to assemble a few basic, seemingly agreed upon statistics.

  1. The United States of America is projected to spend about 3.5-3.6 trillion dollars in 2013.
  2. The sequester aims to trim $80-85 billion from that total.
  3. Depending on numbers used it’s between 2-2.4% of total spending
  4. After sequester the federal government will still spend $15 billion more in 2013 than 2012.

LESS OF AN INCREASE IS A CUT Only in Washington (and Madison I suppose) can spending more be considered a cut. Let’s say I told the babysitter I’m going to give her a 2 dollar an hour raise. It was 8 bucks an hour… now I’ll pay ten. Then I tell her, I’m sorry, we can’t make that work, but I’ll still give you 9 bucks an hour. She’s actually up a dollar an hour, but in Washington, she’d say I cut her pay.

I did not get a good answer to my question to Mr. Deese as to why if we’re budgeting to spend more we have to cut anything… much less so many vital services.

THE END IS NIGH  The predictions from Washington on what’s going to happen if our government cuts a mere 2 something percent in projected spending are certainly alarming. Here’s a quote from the President on the sequester:

“FBI agents will be furloughed.  Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go.  Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country.  Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off.  Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare for their kids.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.”

2 to 2 ½  percent decrease in projected spending. Still more than last year, and all this has to happen? Why?

WE ALL DID IT  You know who already cut 2 percent from their projected spending for 2013? Every working American. Folks disagree on whether the increase in the payroll tax from 4% to 6% this year is really an increase at all. The hike took affect when Congress allowed the temporary cut to expire. Okay… whatever you call it… we’re all 2% lighter this year than we were last.

It’s a percentage that’s easier for some to bear than others, but somehow when Washington sold it seemed like “only 2 percent.”

It’s less money in the pocket, no doubt. Less money to spend. Probably fewer dinners out, fewer rounds of golf. But I didn’t sell our cars, move to a smaller house, and cut my children back to 1 meal a day. We absorbed it.

It’s inconceivable that Washington cannot weather a 2 to 2.4 percent projected cut in spending, which again is still more than it spent last year, without these catastrophic effects.

Perhaps the only way I'll get my questions answered is if the sequester takes effect. Then we'll see. 

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