Spending Daily February 21, 2013

Spending Daily February 21, 2013

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Spending Daily | February 21, 2013

“The Great Sequester Panic”
Rich Lowry editorializes in POLITICO, “Prepare for the end of food safety as we have known it. For a breakdown in public order. For little children languishing in ignorance. If only Edward Gibbon were here to chronicle the devastation. On March 1, the fabric of our civilization begins to unwind. That’s when the economy begins to stall and we turn our back on our values, all because the federal government will have to begin to cut a few tens of billions of dollars from the largest budget the world has ever known. In Hans Christian Andersen terms, Obama is the princess and the sequester is the pea. Over the next 10 years, the sequester amounts to a $1.16 trillion cut, or roughly 3 cents on every federal dollar. If we can’t squeeze a couple of pennies out of every dollar, we might as well begin our great national bankruptcy proceedings right now. … This year we are supposed to cut $85 billion from a $3.5 trillion budget. And it won’t even be that much. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government won’t be able to cut the full $85 billion. It will manage to cut only about half that in 2013.”

“Obama pushes $50 billion stimulus plan as automatic budget cuts loom”
The Washington Examiner reports, “The White House on Wednesday pushed for tens of billions of dollars in stimulus funding for decaying roads and bridges, a request dismissed by Republicans as not serious amid the broader debate over spending cuts in Washington. The plan outlined by administration officials Wednesday calls for $50 billion in spending on highways, transit systems and airports, part of the president’s push for a wave of new government investments. Like other ideas touted in President Obama’s State of the Union address, it lacks a payment plan.”

“Obama: ‘I don’t know why … folks leave stuff until the last minute'”
POLITICO reports, “‘I don’t know why it is in this town, folks leave stuff until the last minute,’ Obama said in an interview with Baltimore’s CBS affiliate, WJZ, one of eight local interviews he did Wednesday to gain support for his plan to prevent the cuts from taking effect. President Obama complained Wednesday about the down-to-the-wire culture of Washington deal-making, as he held out hope that lawmakers will pass a bill to stop deep spending cuts from taking effect on March 1. ‘There’s no other profession, no other industry where people wait until the 11th hour to solve these big problems. And obviously, it creates a lot of uncertainty in our economy,’ he said.”

$85 Billion in Sequester Cuts “isn’t going to sink the $16 trillion U.S. economy”
Caroline Baum editorializes in Bloomberg, “The once-delayed, long-dreaded $85 billion sequester is about to become reality. How do I know? Because President Barack Obama is taking his case, and scare tactics, to the people. Unless Congress acts to avert this year’s across-the-board cuts largely to discretionary spending, the result will be meat shortages, outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, crazy people roaming the streets, a reduced number of first-responders and border-patrol agents, longer lines to pass through airport security, and even meteorite strikes. (OK, I made up that last one.) … The problem isn’t the size of the cuts: $85 billion in a $3.6 trillion budget isn’t going to sink the $16 trillion U.S. economy. … And even with the automatic cuts, total federal outlays will increase each and every year for the next decade, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office estimates. … Rather, the problem is the blunt-instrument design of the 2013 sequester, intended to be so awful Congress would never, ever let it happen. … The second problem is the failure to address the main driver of the deficit, which is mandatory spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. … Just to recap: Congress has adopted a take-no-prisoners strategy that does nothing to alleviate the fiscal crisis confronting the nation in coming decades. Terrific.”

“White House says it could also feel sting of spending cuts”
Reuters reports, “In the latest dire warning about the effects of automatic government spending cuts known as the ‘sequester,’ an Obama administration official said on Wednesday that not even the White House’s own operations will be spared. ‘The Executive Office of the President is subject to the sequester, and we anticipate significant disruption to our operations and mission, which could include furloughs,’ said the official, who did not provide further details.”

GOP Pushes Back Against Pressure to Raise Taxes
The New York Times reports, “House Republicans, shrugging off rising pressure from President Obama, are resolutely opposing new tax increases to head off $85 billion in across-the-board spending reductions, all but ensuring the cuts will go into force March 1 and probably remain in place for months, if not longer. Despite new calls from the White House on Wednesday to enact a combination of tax increases and cuts to postpone the so-called sequester, the House is movingforward on a legislative agenda that assumes deep and arbitrary cuts to defense and domestic programs — once considered unthinkable — will remain in place through the end of the year. … ‘The president says he has to have tax increases to head off the sequester. Well, he already got his tax increase,’ Representative Martha Roby, Republican of Alabama, said in an interview Wednesday after visiting the town just outside of the Army’s Fort Rucker, which stands to take a deep hit this spring. ‘It’s unconscionable to use our military men and women in uniform as a bargaining chip to raise our taxes.’”

 $500 Million in IRS Contracts Under Investigation
The Washington Guardian reports, “The House Oversight Committee is investigating whether a personal relationship between an Internal Revenue Service employee and the owner of a computer company produced a series of government contracts worth about $500 million. In a letter obtained by The Associated Press from the committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., to acting Treasury Secretary Neal S. Wolin, Issa writes that he recently has learned about a personal relationship between an IRS employee and Braulio Castillo, the owner of Signet Computers Inc. Signet Computers’ website lists company addresses in Virginia and Washington, D.C. The name of the IRS employee, who works in the agency’s procurement department, is blacked out in the letter obtained by the AP. The IRS operates within the Treasury Department.”

Dems Demand Congress Return to Deal with Sequester
The Hill reports, “House Democrats on Wednesday amplified their calls for Congress to return to Washington and work to prevent across-the-board sequester cuts poised to hit in nine days. Echoing President Obama, the Democrats arewarning of the dire effects those automatic cuts would have on jobs and thenascent economic recovery.  They’re hoping the lull of this week’s congressional recess will attract attention to the Republicans’ stated willingness to allow the sequester to take effect on March 1 rather than submit to new tax revenues, as the Democrats are demanding. ‘Speaker [John] Boehner should call the Congress back into session [and] we should act to prevent this self-inflicted loss of three-quarters of a million jobs,’ Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) said in a phone call with reporters.”

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