“Starting tomorrow everybody here, all the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol. Now that Congress has left, somebody’s going to be vacuuming and cleaning those floors and throwing out the garbage. They’re going to have less pay. The janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut, and they’ve got to figure out how to manage that. That’s real.” – President Obama, news conference, March 1, 2013
SEQUESTER CLAIMS are off the charts from both sides. The Administration exaggerating the impact is unhelpful especially when they get caught out, which is what seems to have happened on a couple of egregious talking points, with Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker taking them to task. But neither political party is looking very good right now, though I still maintain Republicans are a bigger issue than Obama or the Democrats, a case that’s been proven over the last weeks.
But on Kessler’s fact checking there should be an asterisk, because Kessler playing ref has caused him some trouble in the past due to false equivalencies between Democrats and Republicans when comparisons were just wrong, as Eric Alterman has pointed out before. Kessler also got into the skeet shooting kerfuffle, but at least awarded Obama a “Gepetto checkmark” for truth in the end, though it came after a contorted trip down minutia lane. None of this means he’s wrong on his sequester rulings.
There’s no doubt sequester is anything but a scalpel, but just how damaging it is we simply cannot calculate right now, because it will have a rolling impact that’s not immediate, which is why the hyperbole on what will happen has been as off the mark as who’s to blame for this situation in the first place.
The claim of AOC employees was directly refuted in a government document Glenn Kessler embedded, which is below, though I’d say “anticipate” is the operative word. Obama rated 4 Pinocchios, the highest whopper meter by Kessler and his crew.
“We do not anticipate furloughs for AOC employees as a result of Sequestration.”
Another claim came from Arne Duncan about teacher layoffs, was also investigated by Glenn Kessler and the Washington Post, which also got four Pinocchios, the
Our colleague Lyndsey Layton helped unravel the mystery.
She discovered that these were not layoffs, but rather “transfer notices” sent to 104 Title I teachers for reasons unrelated to the sequestration cuts. (West Virginia is considering requiring counties to set aside 20 percent of their budgets for their lowest-achieving schools.) Pam Padon, director of federal programs and Title 1 for the Kanawha County public schools, told Layton that ultimately, five or six jobs might be lost though the state-mandated change. But in the meantime, the notices only mean that teachers might end up with a new assignment.
“The major impact is not so much sequestration,” Padon said. “Those five or six jobs would already be gone regardless of sequestration.”
What about Head Start? It turns out that those notices were issued because the county program is not getting automatically renewed but must compete for funding with other districts.
UPDATE: We spoke late Thursday with Kanawha schools superintendent Ron Duerring after he sent out a confusing tweet suggesting Duncan was right. (Duncan retweeted it, asking for a reduction of his Pinocchio score.) He confirmed that no teachers have received “pink slips” and none have been told they are not coming back in the fall. “We do not know what the cuts are,” he said. “Then we will make that determination.” He said that a “few people” will likely lose their jobs because of the new state Title I rules, and that sequestration will add to the county’s burden.
In other words, Duncan’s scare story about teacher layoffs – right now, at this moment – was apparently too good to check. …
Kessler goes on to cite Benghazi as a learning lesson for the White House on talking points, which is ridiculous, but the rest of their fact-checking on these two points looks to be correct.
The fact is that both Democrats and Republicans are talking wildly about the sequester.
The claims by Ray LaHood about the FAA cuts and closed towers await more information, but has at least a chance right now of getting a Fact Checker “Gepetto checkmark” for accuracy. More information is required, writes Kessler, so only time will tell.
We’ll have to see what develops if President Obama and Congress don’t make a deal, but few believe this will last long enough to know the real impact of sequester. This has always been the case and why Republicans weren’t worried and neither was President Obama, except that he wanted to force Republicans to deal and win a political battle on the budget.
All of this has the backdrop of some in Virginia and other defense heavy job states getting hit through uncertainty, because of the defense industry jobs on which so many people depend.
The House plans to vote Thursday on a spending measure that would keep the government running after its current funding mechanism elapses March 27. It would provide funding through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, allowing new flexibility to the Pentagon to manage the $40 billion hit the military took Friday but otherwise locking in the sequester’s lower spending levels. – Deal to avert government shutdown likely, officials say