So far, the much-dreaded “sequester” — some $85 billion in federal spending cuts between March and September 30 — hasn’t been evident to most Americans.
The dire warnings that had issued from the White House beforehand — threatening that Social Security checks would be delayed, airport security checks would be clogged, and other federal facilities closed — seem to have been overblown.
Sure, March’s employment report was a big disappointment. But it’s hard to see any direct connection between those poor job numbers and the sequester. The government has been shedding jobs for years. Most of the losses in March were from the Postal Service.
Take a closer look, though, and Americans are starting to feel the pain. They just don’t know it yet.
That’s because so much of what the government does affects the nation in local, decentralized ways. Federal funds find their way to community housing authorities, state unemployment offices, local school districts, private universities, and companies. So it’s hard for most Americans to know the sequester is responsible for the lost funding, lost jobs, or just plain inconvenience.
A tiny sampling: Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts is bracing for a cut of about $51 million in its $685 million of annual federal research grants and contracts. The public schools of Syracuse, New York, will lose over $1 million. The housing authority of Joliet, Illinois, will take a hit of nearly $900,000. Northrop Grumman Information Systems just issued layoff notices to 26 employees at its plant in Lawton, Oklahoma. Unemployment benefits are being cut in Pennsylvania and Utah.
The cuts — and thousands like them — are so particular and localized they don’t feel as if they’re the result of a change in national policy.
It’s just like what happened with the big federal stimulus of 2009 and 2010, but in reverse. Then, money flowed out to so many different places and institutions that most Americans weren’t aware of the stimulus program as a whole.
A second reason the sequester hasn’t been visible is a large share of the cuts are in programs directed at the poor — and America’s poor are often invisible.
One more time:
Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts is bracing for a cut of about $51 million in its $685 million of annual federal research grants and contracts.
Oh my, poor Brandeis University, having to struggle to make ends meet with only $634 million from Uncle Sugar. What will they do?
The dire warnings did not seem overblown, they were overblown. The Sequester arrived but the apocalypse never showed up. Mr. Reich is beating a dead horse.