Opinion: Editorials

Examiner Editorial: Sequestration myths damage public faith in government

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Remember those sequestration federal spending cuts of 2012? How could anybody forget them, considering the apocalyptic disasters they were sure to cause, according to the endless predictions of President Obama, his Democratic allies in Congress and the dominant narrative of the mainstream media. Typical of the latter was ABC's Josh Elliott on “Good Morning America": “It's only hours now until massive government cuts go into effect that could impact every American. Jobs vaporizing, flights delayed, even criminals walking free.”

The underlying assumption of that narrative was that America would be forced to shut down by the cuts because among the first victims would be federal employees, thousands of whom were likely to lose their jobs for lack of funds. Without these government workers, desperately needed programs and essential services would end. Kids would be tossed out of Head Start, single mothers deprived of food stamps, and Social Security checks delayed. Oh, the humanity!

In other words, roughly two of every three federal bureaucrats suffered no loss of pay as a result of sequestration.

Two years later and along comes a Government Accountability Office survey of 23 major federal departments and agency. The only catastrophe associated with sequestration GAO found was the single federal employee who was let go due to sequestration. That lone employee was separated by the U.S. Parole Commission. That's one out of 2.3 million federal workers.

There were, to be sure, furloughs for about 770,000 federal workers of as little as four hours to as many as seven days in duration. In other words, roughly two of every three federal bureaucrats suffered no loss of pay as a result of sequestration. And remember, federal workers make approximately 30 to 40 percent more in total compensation than comparable private-sector workers.

Leave it to Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to point out the elephant in the sequestration living room: “Despite relentless warnings about the dire consequences of sequestration's budget cuts, it appears sequestration resulted in only one layoff. While that's good news for federal employees and other workers, it is devastating to the credibility of Washington politicians and administration officials who spent months -- and millions of dollars -- engaging in a coordinated multi-agency cabinet-level public relations campaign to scare the American people. Taxpayers expect us to root our predictions in fact, not ideology and spin. The facts seem to say the experts underestimated sequestration's impact by between 99,999 and 1,599,999 jobs, according to two frequently-cited estimates by Goldman Sachs and the Congressional Budget Office.”

The vast majority of Americans have little confidence that what they hear from senators and representatives in Congress, in the mainstream media and the White House is anything but political spin. The congressional public approval rating is in the single digits but Obama’s job approval numbers are nothing to write home about, either. Big majorities in the most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll think America is no longer the land of opportunity for everyone. The federal government is bigger than ever, yet they believe “the system” is rigged to favor the few against the many. Americans just want to hear the truth from Washington, not spin.

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