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Sequester Reality Check

by Brandon Arnold / /

Tomorrow, the sky will fall. The seas will rise. It will be Armageddon. 

In other words, the federal government will experience the beginnings of a 2.4 percent cut to its $3.5 trillion budget. To most observers, such a minimal cut seems trivial, but that’s not what some politicians in Washington are claiming. The Obama Administration and its allies are trying to convince everyday Americans that these small cuts will have a disastrous an impact on our lives. 

For instance, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has claimed that cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration will cause chaos at airports by requiring the shutdown of some air traffic control towers. Of course, even after the sequester the FAA budget will remain larger than it was in 2008 – a year in which air traffic seemed pretty normal. And while we’re talking about the FAA, perhaps we should ask why the federal government runs our air traffic control system in the first place. Many industrialized countries – including our northern neighbor, Canada – have privatized air traffic control. This idea has even been endorsed by former Obama budget director Peter Orszag because it could save taxpayer dollars and increase the efficiency of the system. Plus, it could prevent fear-mongering the next time budget cuts are on the table.

Or consider education funding. Education Secretary Arne Duncan blamed the sequester for mass teacher layoffs when he claimed that there are “literally teachers now who are getting pink slips.” A recent Washington Post article revealed Duncan was unable to substantiate this claim and suggests that his statement is probably false.

None of this is to say that the sequester will have no effect on our lives. Some critical federal programs could be in jeopardy. Already, the Indianapolis Air Show has been cancelled because it was not clear if the Navy’s Blue Angels could participate. Perhaps even more catastrophic, a road at Lassan Volcanic National Park in California might open two weeks later than normal. These are actual cuts, however modest.  Unlike, for instance, a $2 million cut to the National Drug Intelligence Center, which the White House said would happen. As reported by Reason, this agency closed its doors last year. But that small fact won’t stop the “chicken little” crowd from telling us that the sky is falling.