Colbert Explains the Sequester

I remember when people kept telling me that voting for these feckless twits was “realistic”. Good times. Good times.

  • Stu

    I’m going out to get some bananas.

  • The Deuce

    I can’t help but notice that, if we take seriously Colbert’s insinuations, the government should never cut anything ever, or even slightly reduce its rate of growth (as is the case here) because it will “cost jobs.” I also note that he also tries to portray Obama’s overwrought Chicken-Littleism as the voice of reason, without questioning whether any of his horror stories have any basis in fact, and studiously avoids any mention of it being his idea in the first place, or how he went on multi-million dollar vacations (which could have paid the salaries of hundreds of government workers) instead of negotiating ways to make the cuts in less painful ways.

    • Jacob

      As someone who works in a federally funded lab, I’ve gotten to see a little bit of the impact of sequestration. To the extent anything negative has happened so far, it seems to be as a result of some agencies neglecting to come up with contingency plan. Where I work, it’s business as usual; we have already undergone some cost cutting and will probably not have to do anything further. As a last resort we will have to have a few days of furlough. All of us here are overpaid, no big deal. Some agencies made no plan and are now taking draconian measures such as blanket travel bans. No one need lose a job over this miniscule cut.

      • Paul H

        Jacob, thanks for your insight.

        General comment: According to conservative media figures, the sequester is nothing more than a cut in the rate of growth of spending. I have not heard this claim rebutted by any liberal media or mainstream media types, so I assume that it is correct. If it is correct, then government agencies will have as much money or more money to spend this year as they had last year — they just won’t have as much money this year as they were originally projected to have. How is that terrible at all? I have had years (sometimes several in a row) when my private employer gave few if any raises because of economic and financial challenges, and yet my family and I got by without raises on those years. Why is it horrible if something similar happens in government from time to time?

        • The Deuce

          How is that terrible at all?

          It isn’t. Obama is a liar, and Colbert is a dishonest water-carrier, like most of his media compatriots. The only thing that’s terrible is that we aren’t actually cutting spending, even though the debt now represents an imminent existential threat to the country.

        • Claude

          According to conservative media figures, the sequester is nothing more than a cut in the rate of growth of spending. I have not heard this claim rebutted by any liberal media or mainstream media types, so I assume that it is correct.

          hahaha Yeah, 700,000 jobs lost, or even half that, no big deal.

          So here we go. The good news is that compared with our last two self-inflicted crises, the sequester is relatively small potatoes. A failure to raise the debt ceiling would have threatened chaos in world financial markets; failure to reach a deal on the so-called fiscal cliff would have led to so much sudden austerity that we might well have plunged back into recession. The sequester, by contrast, will probably cost “only” around 700,000 jobs.

          http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/22/opinion/krugman-sequester-of-fools.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

          • Claude

            ^My blockquote tags dropped out. The “So here we go” graph is a block quote.

          • Paul H

            Claude,

            Does it make sense that a cut in the rate of spending growth would require the loss of even one job, much less 700,000 jobs? In other words, if Government Department X spent $100 million last year, and they planned to spend $105 million this year, but because of the sequester they can spend only $101 million this year, why would they have to cut any jobs? They might have to do away with raises, sure, but why would they have to cut jobs?

            I admit that it is entirely possible that I am misunderstanding the math on this. But as I say, I have heard that the sequester cuts only the rate of growth of spending, and does not actually cut any spending to less than the previous year’s spending level. Is this claim wrong? Maybe it is, but I have assumed it is correct, because I have not heard anyone, anywhere, even in mainstream media outlets like NPR, dispute this claim.

            • Claude

              Hi Chris,

              Paul Krugman links to an analysis of the effects of the sequester based on simulations. But if you follow them municipal budget process it becomes clear that even if you keep rolling over the same budget year and after year, that is adding no new goods and services and trimming here and there, the cost of the budget still goes up because of drivers like health care and union contracts, and so on. If you cut the budget significantly, then you lose goods and services, period.

              But really just read Bob Cratchit’s post below. We are by no means rich, but how can I say other than: Congress, raise my taxes so Cratchit can send his eight kids to college.

              • Paul H

                I’m not Chris, but I assume that this response was aimed at me. You have a good point that some costs will go up year over year (such as health care), whether the budget goes up or not. But I still cannot see how a cut in the rate of growth (not an actual *cut* in the total budget from one year to the next) could possibly translate to 700,000 jobs lost.

                As for this quote:

                Congress, raise my taxes so Cratchit can send his eight kids to college.

                I do not understand this logic. This seems to assume that the role of government is to take money from all citizens, in order to provide jobs for a select number of citizens, so that that select number of citizens can send their children to college. While I certainly wish the best for all government employees, and I don’t want to see anyone have to lose income, I fundamentally disagree that the previous sentence describes the proper role of government. Not to mention that raising taxes may not necessarily raise revenue. And even if raising taxes does raise revenue, wouldn’t it be prudent to apply that additional revenue to narrowing our trillion-dollar annual deficits, rather than to increased spending?

                • Claude

                  My apologies, Paul H. I don’t know why I called you Chris.

                  Did you check out the economic analysis I pointed to? This group crunches the numbers and runs simulations on the various outcomes of the sequester, an idiotic plan that makes cuts across the board irrespective of how well-advised they may be.

                  This seems to assume that the role of government is to take money from all citizens, in order to provide jobs for a select number of citizens, so that that select number of citizens can send their children to college.

                  You’re being a bit too literal here about my willingness to be taxed more so Cratchit can send his eight kids to college; although I meant what I said, we’re not actually discussing government patronage. It is the legitimate role of government to raise revenue to run its operations, and Lord knows the American people love their Department of Defense. Though Robert Gates and Leon Panetta supported streamlining DoD, the sequester defense cuts were deliberately draconian to discourage the Republicans from continuing their irresponsible budget antics. Of course they called Obama’s bluff (he was supposed to be so good at poker). And what do you mean raising taxes does not necessarily raise revenue?

                  The fact is the government has been able to borrow money for practically nothing and the deficit “crisis” is overhyped. And it’s not as if Obama hasn’t proposed measures to address long-term deficits, but the politics are a joke:

                  http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/03/gop-budget-divide-dont-know-vs-dont-care.html

  • Ed Graham

    When someone suggests that I turn to Colbert for an explanation of public policy, “feckless” is a word that does come to mind.

  • bob cratchit

    The sequester will effect that many jobs and more by furloughs and potentially work stoppage. Maybe some people can afford to shrug off loosing 21 to 30 percent of their paycheck if they have pleanty of discressionary cash but many if not most civil service workers are not in the top income brackets. They are typically in the GS 3 – 12 range and include single income families (like me) and single parent families struggling from paycheck to paycheck. I work at an Army base and the cuts will also affect services that we provide to soldiers and their families. Services like barracks, housing and maintenance. Fire, police and emergency services. Airfield operations and maintenance. Chow halls. Schools for military children. Road, rail and bridge maintenance. Base recreation and support for soldiers and families. Chaplins, Etc, etc. Bases have been dealing with drying up funds for years, trying to justify every penny. Staffing levels are all time lows and people work overtime without compensation. The pols are using this sequester as a political stalemate. The reality is nobody except the civil servant workers will really feel any pain from this. It always appears to be set up that way. I would rather they sent us home for 22 days rather than cut off more than 1/5 of my pay (which will cut into our budget that supports 8 kids). At least then I could collect unemployment and maybe the rest of society including the elected fecks would share in the pain.

  • Stu

    I took Colbert’s piece as going after the fact that both sides can’t work together and instead come up with “terrible solutions.”

    The sequester, overall, is barely of note in terms of nation’s finances. What we should be questioning is the fact that Federal Budget has such impact on our lives. That’s what is really messed up.

  • Jacob

    Bob,
    How are you getting to a 20% pay cut from a 2% budget cut? Maybe there is no fat to trim in your organization, but there is plenty in mine. Furloughs are being mentioned as a last resort in our lab.

    • bob cratchit

      Jacob, where are you getting the 2% figure? I work for DoD which will be cut 7.8% or roughly $45B. This trickles down to 22 days of non paid furlough for Civil servanst who work at DoD forthe remainder of FY13. 22 days amounts to 1 day a week or 20 – 30 percent of my pay. I stand to lose around a thousand dollars a month.


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