Today the White House invited congressional leaders to a meeting on Friday. Doesn't the White House have a calendar? Friday at midnight is when the sequestration takes affect unless President Obama signs an order that they take affect earlier. New Hampshire would bear its share of the burden along with all other states.
So what is sequestration? Sequestration is a process that has been around since at least 1980 in which debt reduction must be made by a certain percentage over a certain period of time. Over all of history any time sequestration was to take affect, administrations have hyped the negative impacts of the most critical government services, hoping for public outcry and revision of the sequestration. This time we are into a situation in which nobody on either side seems willing to budge so some sequestration seems inevitable.
Facts around the sequestration are sketchy at best but best guess is that all government programs will be cut by about $85 billion (just a little more than the Sandy Relief packages voted by congress) for the remainder of 2013. That would be something around $9.5 billion per month.
Some federal employees in “non-critical” jobs could be furloughed a few hours each week starting March 1. But, regulations require 30 days notice for that to happen so the earliest that could happen would be April 1. Just how many hours per employee would be required is still a matter for debate, but it could range from a couple hours to a day per pay period.
Other spending, for supplies for example, would also be cut. But best estimate for the “real world cut” would be something on the order of 0.4% of spending on that line item, or for example, when ordering $100 worth of pencils you would only be able to order $99.60 worth of pencils.
The White House this past Sunday issued a “Fact Sheet” that summarizes cuts to the most critical services in New Hampshire. The first two pages of that report detail impacts we may experience. Examples of the “Washington Syndrome” (hype and overstating the dire consequences of reducing spending) include:
New Hampshire Education: “... New Hampshire will lose approximately $1,078,000 in funding for primary and secondary education, putting teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 1,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 10 fewer schools would receive funding.” And “New Hampshire will lose approximately $2.2 million in funds for about 30 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities”. But, are those 30 teachers the ones that are not currently teachers since the reductions are reduced increases? Confusing.
The White House report details what it considers alarming cuts in social programs including even that “New Hampshire could lose up to $28,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 100 fewer victims being served.”
Dire to say the least.
But, when we research the federal funding level for the current year and find the governor's proposed budget contains nearly $1 billion in education transfers, the “dire” cuts in federal education funding is nearly that magic 0.4% again. Just a couple million out of a thousand million (a billion) is not really going to cause the sky to fall is it?
Nobody on either side of the political arena wants to hurt needy people and infants in any way but we have been working our way into a corner when it comes to budgeting for several years now. David Gurgen wrote probably the best and to-the-point article about Washington's Soap Opera I have read in quite a while for CNN today and I recommend everyone read it.
Basically, the day after sequestration starts will be pretty much the same as the day before sequestration started. Some reductions in services might take place down the road but then maybe not. And, then, legal wrangling will probably start regarding cuts or revenue or whatever since the law that created the sequestration only says “deficit reduction” and does not specify whether through revenue or spending cuts.
We are indeed sick of Washington's soap opera and tuning out for a while just may be what the doctor ordered.