Skip to comments.Sequestration: How a Spending Stalemate Would Affect the States
Posted on 09/23/2012 6:08:58 PM PDT by DeaconBenjamin
A self-inflicted wound to a struggling economy. Ham-handed cuts nobody thought would actually happen. The big, dumb spending cuts that no one wants.
Those are just three descriptions given to the looming federal budget reductions that are scheduled to take effect Jan. 2, 2013, unless Congress stops them. If they are enacted, more than $1.2 trillion would be cut from federal spending in the next ten years, including nearly $110 billion next year alone. The specter has produced jitters around the country. Heightening anxiety is the broader, so-called fiscal cliff, a term that adds in the tax cuts also set to expire at the end of this year.
And theres reason to fear. The Congressional Budget Office has said going over the fiscal cliff would plunge the country back into recession in the first half of 2013. Unemployment would climb back over 9 percent, and economic growth wouldnt return for two years.
Basically, this is a nightmare, Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said at a recent briefing. This economy really doesnt need another self-inflicted wound, and thats what this would be.
But for state and local governments in particular, the budget cuts would have acute and tangible ramifications. The reductions, known as the sequester, would be made across the board to a broad swath of federal spending. The cuts could not only ravage economies, but force states to backfill funding and scale back countless safety net programs.
Under the sequester, as laid out in the resolution to the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, the cuts would be divided between defense and non-defense discretionary spending. In the next fiscal year, for example, defense-related discretionary spending would be cut $54.6 billion, or 10 percent. Non-defense would be cut $38 billion, or 7.8 percent.
Big-ticket state-federal items such as Medicaid are exempt. Social Security and the bulk of Medicare spending are as well, although Medicare providers are facing a 2 percent, or $11 billion, cut.
But holding those programs harmless means the cuts will fall on about a third of the federal budget, and much of the federal bureaucracy. The Federal Aviation Administration, which supports the operation of airports large and small, would be cut, along with Congress own budget. Almost every federal agency, from the Small Business Administration to the Army Corps of Engineers and NASA, would face reductions. Even the IRS fund for paying informants would be cut by $10 million.
Spending cuts wouldnt differentiate between programs on the basis of necessity or effectiveness; reductions would be imposed broadly and equally. As the White House put it in a recent Office of Management and Budget report: Sequestration is a blunt and indiscriminate instrument. It is not the responsible way for our nation to achieve deficit reduction.
Cuts to the States
Of all the myriad reductions threatening states, theres one that seems to have generated the most public concern: cuts to education.
States are set to receive more than $15.7 billion in basic elementary and secondary education dollars from the federal government, which includes Title I funding for the disadvantaged. Under sequestration, that would be cut nearly $1.3 billion. The $12.6 billion in federal money for special education would also be reduced more than $1 billion.
While those reductions are about the same 8 percent as the rest of the cuts, they comprise a large portion of the cuts states would have to bear under sequestration. Whats more, in many states education spending is dictated by state constitutions or court decisions, which could force legislatures to backfill the reductions.
Those are big dollars, says Chris Whatley, director of the Council of State Governments Washington office. You cant just make easy shifts in education funding.
And in states with a heavy concentration of military installations, the pain could be worse. Military personnel spending is exempt from the cuts, but activities such as equipment maintenance, construction, procurement and research and development are not. That means tens of thousands of civilian Department of Defense and private sector jobs could be at risk, along with tens of billions in economic activity associated with that spending. Many defense contractors are already preparing pink slips for employees.
States would also be hit by more than $2.5 billion in cuts destined for the National Institutes of Health. Those reductions, which would affect grants that go to pharmaceutical companies and higher education institutions, could cost some states hundreds of millions in research and development dollars next year alone.
But perhaps the most varied effect of the cuts will be felt by the millions of people around the country who rely on federal grants to support social services and safety net programs. If those reductions are enacted, experts say, states would have to decide whether or not to replace them. Some would likely scale back or eliminate programs rather than fill in the gaps themselves.
The federal block grant for energy assistance, which states use to help low-income households pay heating and cooling bills, would be cut even though funding for it has dwindled in recent years. Nearly $550 million would be cut from special food assistance for women, infants and children, known as WIC. And federal funds that support various local housing, health and child care services would be cut as well.
Finally, the economic impact of the cuts would be felt with great force in management ranks at federal agencies. Much of the federal agency reduction would come at the expense of staffing, and federal employees would likely face layoffs and furloughs.
That would include many of the employees who would have to manage the sequestration process itself. Their jobs would be at risk, along with the services they provide. Personnel is such a huge percentage of the cost, says Marcia Howard, executive director of Federal Funds Information for States.
An Avoidable Cliff
For all the consternation over the looming cuts, they are still avoidable. Congress could approve an equivalent $1.2 trillion in spending reductions to stop the sequester, or simply delay it outright. The expiring tax cuts could be extended by Congress as well.
But so far, the political will has been lacking, even as most agree the fiscal cliff is an avoidable catastrophe. Lately, the conversation has been more about whos to blame for the policy: Both Republicans and Democrats malign the rigid deficit-reducing rules, but have been hesitant to dismiss the ends, as the budget remains a top concern on the campaign trail.
Still, some suspect a post-election deal will be worked out during Congress lame duck session. Others say the fiscal cliff is more like a slope, and Congress could retroactively stop most of the cuts and tax hikes sometime next year, even if January comes and goes.
But with time slipping away, and control of both the White House and Congress up for grabs, theres a growing sense of pessimism in Washington. Many say that even if Congress ultimately blunts the impact of the fiscal cliff, its increasingly likely the U.S. will at least temporarily careen off of it in early 2013.
Thats left a situation where states are preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. As time passes, the concern is palpable. As Whatley of the Council of State Governments sums it up, All of these things are going to hurt.
Every time I see this level of handwringing, I have to laugh; and keep on laughing.
Over the next ten years?
Omugabe spends that much money that he doesn't have EVERY FREAKIN' YEAR!
I won't be grabbing the champagne to celebrate any time soon.
Assuming ANY cuts actually happen.
In the next fiscal year, for example, defense-related discretionary spending would be cut $54.6 billion, or 10 percent. Non-defense would be cut $38 billion, or 7.8 percent.
10% and 7.8%
Drastic I tell ya!
If anything gets cut, I'll buy the sparkling wine. I figure I'm safe with that bet.
Cut? Cut in the rate of growth maybe?
I hear ya.
Although I recognize that Paul Ryan shows more concern, and makes more of an effort to trim the budget than most people in Washington, the “draconian” cuts that he proposed amounted to $50B a year — his plan was $500B over 10 years. The media called him a crazy man who wanted irresponsible cuts.
Fact is, Paul Ryan didn’t go nearly far enough. I have never considered his plan (as “draconian” as it is) to be a serious attempt at controlling the federal deficit.
If Obama spends over $1T a year that he doesn’t have, then the cutting (to the annual budget) needs to start well north of $1T. A year. Each year. For a start. Then we can move on to the really painful cuts.
At the current deficit spending rate of $4B/day the ‘draconian’ first year cut of $110B would amount to 27 days of deficit spending. Less than one month....
Congress is the root of the problem. That institution is incapable of self-restraint. No President can spend alone, they must have congressional complicity to first authorize and then appropriate the funds. Until the American people have had enough and are willing to stand up to Congress, sequestration may be the only functional method to curtail spending. The concept dilutes responsibility to the point any given congress critter can go home and deny it was his/her fault.
He wants to cut everything except welfare, financial transfers, control over medical care and social engineering.
I didn’t see any cuts for environmental efforts, either, like the EPA.
1) Increase military spending.
2) Eliminate anything else not authorized by the Constitution.
I do see a need to horsewhip some of the procurement officers for their trifling ways that move the target around on contractors.
Fly then fix. Not fix then fly. Yes, people will die. We did it that way for years, and it worked.
The money we save can be used for useful stuff.
2 terms in the Senate (12 years) sit out one term (6 years) to regain eligibility
6 terms in the House (12 years)sit out 3 terms (6 years) to regain eligibility's
Also repeal the 17th Amendment
They passed it. Ryan called the deal ‘historic’ and ‘a great step forward’. Now they complain?
“I don’t see the downside to cutting spending.”
For all the talk about already having cut spending, taking out another 3% in spending sure has a LOT of people worked up.
2013 Mandatory spending $2.3T
2012 Mandatory spending $2.252T
2013 Discretionary spending $1.2T
2012 Discretionary spending $1.319T
Different than what they are claiming.
Most of the spending cuts are good. Military spending should be the same, but given the discretion to cut useless programs- the green navy and similar programs. Medicare providers could receive a 2% cut, but providers should be allowed the option to directly charge beneficiaries for the reduction in reimbursement.
The real harm of sequestration is the tax hikes which will contract the economy and lead to even less revenue.
This is a joke, right?
They need to cut AT LEAST $1.4 trillion, next year.
Saying that cutting $110 BILLION is a problem is just delusional.
There is no such thing as "mandatory" spending.
ALL spending (except, arguably, for a Navy) is set by the House of Representatives, which is elected, entire, every two years.
Nothing that a House did in a previous Congress (except, again arguably, Naval procurement) can bind a new House to spend a nickel.
The military IS useful stuff. They preserve our freedom and keep us from getting murdered. Practically anything else can be done by the states.
Clinton and Obama have both sought to destroy our military.
Fifty years ago, defense spending accounted for 47% of total federal spending. Today, it accounts for 19%.
Under Clinton, America's military manpower decreased from 2.1 million to 1.6 million. Clinton removed 305,000 employees removed from the federal payroll. Unfortunately around 90% of these (286,000) were military personnel.
Clinton cut the Army from 18 divisions to 12, and the Navy from 546 ships to 380. Air Force flight squadrons were cut from 76 to 50.
What the impeached, disbarred-rapist scrapped, amounted to more manpower and materiel than most, if not every military force in the world.
I used an M2 Burner in the field. Know what that is? Pressurized gasoline heat source for cooking and heating water.
Dangerous as hell.
When I got out, the Babington burner was FINALLY coming online after wasting millions on a bunch of crap required by procurement.
I'm all for our guys in the field having the good stuff. Just want procurement to quit wasting money on BS.
Our money would go farther for them.
I tend to agree. Although what I would prefer would be mandated cuts in employees proportioned across the whole organization.
The federal government today is comprised of too many folks with too much time on their hands thinking up ways to interfere in other people’s lives and to mess up the economy. Cut 10% this year. 10% next year. Keep cutting until we can actually tell cuts were made. Then cut another 50%.
But overall, the description in the article of the cuts seems like a pretty sensible way to start chopping down our insane federal bureaucracy.
“more than $1.2 trillion would be cut from federal spending in the next ten years”
That’s it? We need to cut twice that every year for 30 years to have any hope of eliminating the debt.
The Defense Dept. is as wasteful and corrupt as any other government agency. The way new weapons are approved is based on how many congressmen a contractor can buy. The entire bloated federal mess must be cut drastically.
That's a totally different issue and I don't disagree, but those "other government agencies" should not exist.
Shut em down and let the bureaucRATs find real jobs where they actually have to work.
What you say is true. I posted the numbers because the article talks about “mandatory” spending.
Can’t disagree with that. :-)