Beltway Snake Oil Alert: “Draconian” Sequester Resulted In One (1) Federal Job Cut

Last year the beltway talking heads were gumming furiously about the “jobs” catastrophe that would result from the sequestration of what turned out to be $44 billion of Federal spending—or about 1.3% of total outlays. Goldman Sachs predicted 100,000 layoffs, while CBO estimated the impact at 1.5 million job losses, including among contractors. Soon the going assumption in what passes for Washington debate was that upwards of 1 million Federal bureaucrats would be pounding the streets if the sequester was allowed to go forward. Needless to say, Washington made a “bipartisan” budget deal to ameliorate the original $85 billion of cuts, but as indicated above nearly half of that amount was actually withheld from the appropriations bills. But as I learned from long ago experience, bureaucrats have endless ways to shuffle appropriated money among accounts and to tap unexpired budget authority that has been accumulated and squirreled away for years. This time they outdid themselves in the application of what might be termed “accounting creativity”, but which in practice amounts to outright fraud. As the GAO discovered and memorialized in the chart below, only a single Federal agency adopted a “reduction-in-force”(RIF) and that was a tiny office in the Department of Justice. Furthermore, the RIF in question involved a single (1)bureaucrat! Ironically, the agency undergoing the RIF was the DOJ “Parole Commission”. Perhaps after massively violating Congress’s legal mandate to streamline operations, the Washington bureaucracy was prepared to issue its own pardons and parole. I have frequently said that the nation’s fiscal process is broken beyond repair. I do not exaggerate!   GAOGAO#mce_temp_url# As Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) explains:

“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,” “Today, I’m sending a letter to the Office of Management and Budget with the hope of soliciting a fact-based explanation for the American people.  The American people deserve to know the truth, especially if it suggests politicians’ favorite programs can endure far more in budget cuts than sequestration imposed.”

The investigators looked at 23 federal agencies and found that

19 agencies reported curtailing hiring; 16 reported rescoping or delaying contracts or grants for core mission activities; 19 reported reducing employee training; 20 reported reducing employee travel; and 7 reported furloughing more than 770,000 employees from 1 to 7 days.

Read the whole report here.