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Time to Put an End to the "Human Shield" Defense against Responsible Budgeting

by Douglas Kellogg / /

How have you fared in the aftermath of the “sequester” deadline’s passage? It’s kind of ironic that unions put Twinkies out of business just in time for the fiscal apocalypse; let’s hope our canned goods last until this tragedy is over.

What’s that you say? The grocery stores are stocked? The schools are open? Firemen and police are still on the job? Surely the TSA is not actually getting new uniforms!? (Let’s give TSA a brief round of applause for their uncanny ability to get bad headlines; do they have a public information officer?)

Well then, so far it seems like the “sequester” hits about as hard as the “snowquester.” Still, let us mourn the loss of bureaucrats’ $5,000 carpentry projects for at least a moment… That at least one loss that any American might actually notice in day-to-day life, one specific American bureaucrat, but someone nonetheless! That is however, if the administration would make an honest effort to target waste and inefficiencies in the budget before cutting anything that could be of political consequence.

Unfortunately, the “human shield” defense to sensible budget reductions is alive and well. That is, intentionally punishing the populace by stopping garbage pickup, or trying to slow down air travel, or perhaps getting rid of food inspectors rather than dropping one of the plentiful number of TSA agents or perhaps a green energy loan, anything that the public might actually be happy to see go.

Some of the broad threats:

“Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that 800,000 Pentagon employees could face furlough, while Education Secretary Arne Duncan said 70,000 fewer low-income families would have access to the pre-kindergarten Head Start Program. And Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said travelers could face 90-minute departure delays at airports due to air traffic controllers being forced into unpaid leave.”

A recent email between a USDA official and the Obama administration shines light on the dark side of the executive branch’s efforts to make the public feel the “sequester."

In this day and age of Internet media, this diabolical and open political maneuvering and blatant abdication of responsibility, completely intended to be at the expense of ordinary citizens to the benefit of those who reap government largess and inefficiency, should not stand.

Too many media outlets played right along with the President’s “Chicken Little” strategy, proclaiming doom and gloom. The extent of this phenomenon is well outlined in this piece by Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center.

All while there are more than enough cut options available. The federal government reportedly lost $261 billion to waste, fraud, and abuse last year (you’ll recall the sequester simply shaves outlays by $85 billion).

Here at NTU we have combined with USPIRG to create two reports on bi-partisan cuts to a variety of wasteful efforts, adding up to nearly $1 trillion. Additionally, some have rightfully pointed to Senator Tom Coburn’s reports on waste as containing good targets for savings.

The sad, or hilarious (depending on your sense of humor), examples of programs too vital to trim include:

  • The FCC’s cell phone program that continues to grow.
  • The White House Easter Egg hunt will continue, even though tours are shut down.
  • Government still pays $1.7 billion for empty buildings it owns (referenced here, as well as in the NTU/USPIRG report).

Perhaps, the epitome of the strong-handed tactics we are seeing is Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano’s threats to release undocumented detainees. Yet, Citizens Against Government Waste’s Tom Schatz called out DHS for having $9 billion in “preparedness funds” – presumably so they never have to do precisely what they are now doing!

The examples go on and on. It is not difficult to find loads of examples of budget items the general population would never notice should they be slashed. It’s high time illegitimate government functions, failed programs, and waste are not protected with disingenuous fear-mongering.