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The big sequester gamble: How badly will the cuts hurt?

February 25, 2013 By: seeta Category: Civil Rights, Corrupt Legislature, Economic Terrorism

From Washington Post:

“The good news is, the world doesn’t end March 2. The bad news is, the world doesn’t end March 2,” said Emily Holubowich, a Washington health-care lobbyist who leads a coalition of 3,000 nonprofit groups fighting the cuts. “The worst-case scenario for us is the sequester hits and nothing bad really happens. And Republicans say: See, that wasn’t so bad.”

In the long partisan conflict over government spending, the sequester is where the rubber meets the road. Obama is betting Americans will be outraged by the abrupt and substantial cuts to a wide range of government services, from law enforcement to food safety to public schools. And he is hoping they will rise up to demand what he calls a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction that replaces some cuts with higher taxes.

But if voters react with a shrug, congressional Republicans will have won a major victory in their campaign to shrink the size of government. Instead of cancelling the sequester, the GOP will likely push for more.

“It would be a big problem for the White House if the sequester came and went and nobody really noticed anything. Then people will start saying, ‘Well, maybe we can cut spending,” said John H. Makin, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who penned a recent Wall Street Journal piece titled “Learning to Love the Sequester.”

Adding to the liberal angst is concern that the scale of the cuts may be overstated, at least in the short term. While the sequester orders the White House to withdraw $85 billion in spending authority from affected agencies in the fiscal year that ends in September, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that agencies will reduce actual spending by only about $44 billion, with the remaining cuts carried over into future years. Compared with total 2013 discretionary spending, that’s a cut of less than 4 percent.

From CAP:

. This time a refusal to compromise by conservative leaders in Congress would lead to massive, damaging across-the-board spending cuts on March 1, potentially dragging the economy back into recession and hurting American families by slashing critical investments in job training, public health, and public safety.

The spending cuts, also known as the “sequester,” are a direct result of a long push by conservatives to take the nation’s economy hostage in order to secure massive, harmful spending cuts. In the summer of 2011, in exchange for agreeing to pay America’s bills, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) negotiated the deal that wrote the sequester into law, stating that he had gotten 98 percent of what he wanted. Though there is a concerted effort to blame the president for the sequester, no amount of whitewashing can erase the fact that many conservative members of Congress voted for this plan.

Under the terms of the sequester, federal spending would be cut by $1.2 trillion from March 2013 to March 2021. States stand to lose billions of dollars in critical grants needed to fund everything from schools to new police officers to parks. In fiscal year 2013 alone, states stand to lose an estimated $6.4 billion in federal funding. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that as many as 750,000 jobs could be lost because of the sequester. Taking a meat cleaver to spending in such a blunt, unfocused manner would send a shockwave through our economy and would hurt countless American families.

The Impact of the Sequester on Communities Across America by Anna Chu

Sequester Spending Cuts Would Cost 700,00 Jobs

February 20, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Consumer Rights, Economic Terrorism, Workers' Rights

From ThinkProgress:

President Obama called, once again, for Republicans in Congress to support a plan to void the so-called “sequester,” the automatic budget cuts scheduled for March that were set in motion by the 2011 debt ceiling deal. House Republicans responded by releasing a statement that called for eliminating job training and financial literacy programs and by mocking the very idea of government funded scientific studies.

But engaging in the sort of austerity included in the sequester is a terrible idea with the economy in its current fragile state. As Macroeconomic Advisers noted today (reiterating its previous analysis), the sequester will knock 0.6 percent off of economic growth this year, killing 700,000 jobs:

  • – Our baseline forecast, which shows GDP growth of 2.6% in 2013 and 3.3% in 2014, does not include the sequestration.
  • – The sequestration would reduce our forecast of growth during 2013 by 0.6 percentage point (to 2.0%) but then, assuming investors expect the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to delay raising the federal funds rate, boost growth by 0.1 percentage point (to 3.4%) in 2014.
  • – By the end of 2014, the sequestration would cost roughly 700,000 jobs (including reductions in armed forces), pushing the civilian unemployment rate up ¼ percentage point, to 7.4%. The higher unemployment would linger for several years.

Is America Training Too Many Foreign Armies?

February 02, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Development, Imperialism

From Foreign Policy:

At a time when not a day goes by without Beltway handwringing about the impact of a potential sequester, there has been almost zero discussion of how to better focus U.S. military assistance around clear objectives and direct it to countries where it can make a lasting difference. And these aren’t insignificant sums when taken together. The administration requested $9.8 billion in security assistance funding for fiscal year 2013.

Much of this military assistance — through programs like Foreign Military Financing; International Military Education and Training; Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining, and Related Programs; International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement; Peacekeeping Operations; and the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund — is supposed to be overseen by the State Department with the Defense Department doing the heavy lifting of actually delivering aid and training.

The rationale on paper for such assistance is straightforward and usually receives uncritical congressional support. U.S. military aid helps train security forces, finance the purchase of military equipment, bolster the ability of law enforcement to tackle the illegal narcotics trade, and shape cooperation on nonproliferation issues. But more than anything, the Pentagon has always insisted that spreading military assistance so broadly is all about building relationships with fellow militaries — a cost effective way of establishing contacts who will pick up the phone in a ministry of defense when needed. For those who say U.S. dollars propped up an autocratic military in Egypt, other argue that it was the senior flag relationships between the Pentagon and Cairo that kept the military from opening fire on democratic protesters during the Arab Spring.

But U.S. military aid looks much better on paper than in practice, in large part because it is often delivered as if on autopilot without a reasoned discussion of its merits. The State Department largely offers rubber-stamp approvals, and the Foreign Service currently lacks personnel with the expertise needed to engage in a rigorous debate with the Pentagon about who deserves aid and why. As Gordon Adams of the Stimson Center has argued, the State Department’s “internal capacity to plan, budget, and manage these programs needs to be seriously strengthened.” This, combined with the general tendency of Congress to treat military spending requests as something just short of a papal writ, has meant that U.S. security assistance programs receive very little oversight.