The Efficacy of Sequestration: Abdicating Responsibility by Cutting Spend Across the Board

We have to give our elected senators and House representatives credit for acknowledging that they are unable and unwilling to do the hard work of deciding what's best for the country. In lieu of rolling up their sleeves and performing the diligence required to adequately protect the country, ensuring that current and future generations will be able to acquire needed skills to be gainfully employed, enabling U.S. corporations to be the most competitive on the planet, and sufficiently funding vital data collection, they have thrown up their arms and opted for sequestration.

Wikipedia defines the term as referring “to automatic spending cuts in particular categories of federal outlays. In 2013 specifically, sequestration refers to a section of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) that was initially set to begin on January 1, 2013, as an austerity fiscal policy. These cuts were postponed by two months by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 until March 1 [2013] when this law went into effect.... The reductions in spending authority are approximately $85.4 billion... during fiscal year 2013, with similar cuts for years 2014 through 2021.... The cuts are split evenly (by dollar amounts, not by percentages) between the defense and non-defense categories."

Imagine needing to reduce personal household or corporate spend, digging into the details of where cuts can be made while maintaining goals and objectives. Then, because consensus is too daunting or personally risky -- and devoid of diligence in leadership -- saying "the heck with it, we'll just make across the board cuts and let the chips fall where they may." The chips have begun to fall.

Today's NYT reports that "After months of agonizing about how to deal with the effects of government spending cuts, senior F.B.I. officials in Washington have decided how they will reduce the bureau’s spending: they will shut down its headquarters and offices across the country for roughly 10 weekdays over the next year." James B. Comey, the new Director of the FBI who just started last week, is quoted saying “I’m not sure the effects of sequestration on this great institution that is charged with protecting the American people — that those effects are known well enough yet, and it is something I intend to talk about... I can’t imagine that if we have charged people with protecting their fellow citizens that it makes sense to send them home and tell them you can’t work for two weeks without pay.”

In addition to "concern that many agents and executives may leave for higher-paying jobs in the private sector if the furloughs persist... senior officials in Washington said that the cuts could also hurt domestic intelligence gathering, and that agents who are working on complex investigations like financial fraud will fall behind on their work." Former F.B.I. deputy director Tim Murphy warns, “I think the long-term impact is not being considered by those having this budget debate in Congress. Mistakes will be made down the road because of these cuts, and they will be able to be traced back to these cuts.” But tragically and incredibly, this impact is not the subject of Congressional debate.

Elsewhere in today's news, you've likely heard that the U.S. Labor Department reported a plunge in jobless claims, then said that figures were flawed. Annie Lowrey writes in NYT: "The data malfunction has called into question the accuracy of a major leading indicator, one scrutinized by investors, economists and policy makers alike. It also shined a light on the imperfect and often outdated systems that states and the federal government use to provide benefits to workers and cull data on the labor market and the broader economy — a situation that some experts warn might become even worse because of the $1 trillion in budget cuts spread over 10 years known as sequestration."

I can hear my immigrant grandfather, who was born in 1896 and worked as a waiter for 55 years, saying "Throw the bums out!" It's never that simple of course, but hard to disagree with.

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