Who do you trust?

Opinion
Mar 8, 2013

This sequester situation sure has to make one think about having faith in government. We all know that the federal government has been on a spending spree since President Obama took office four years ago. The thought of them being forced to cut 2.4 percent out of their 3.6 trillion dollar spending habit is nuts. Everybody in business has had to make those kinds of operating cuts in recent years. And the feds should find it an easy task with a 1.6 trillion dollar budget deficit. This president and Congress are fiscally inept and they have been taking OPM (other people’s money) far too long.

 

The hype over the spending reductions was disingenuous and the president should have lost a large amount of credibility with American people. He was, along with his cabinet heads, absolutely using scare tactics to force Congress to accept his idea of higher taxes, or closing tax loopholes. Fortunately, Congress didn’t bite and now we have a spending sequester.

Ironically, one of the cuts that has received a large amount of media attention was USDA’s meat inspection program. Without it, the meat industry is dead.

The industry already has a bad cold, but these inspection cuts would be devastating. Rush Limbaugh even picked up the story. But Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that they won’t furlough inspectors all at once; they will be staggered to minimize any impact to processors. He also said, “The reality is there are going to be disruptions.”

Most folks would think that the feds would figure out ways to cut non-essential spending programs that would have little impact on business or everyday life, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. A telling email from Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Director Charles Brown leaked last week. The email was an administrative response to his question about how much latitude he had in making his spending cuts. The response to his question was, “However you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.”

Arkansas Republican Tim Griffin said the “administration’s response to Brown’s email shows a bid to undermine efforts to replace the cuts with less onerous ones. This email confirms what many Americans have suspected: The Obama administration is doing everything they can to make sure their worst predictions come true and to maximize the pain of the sequester cuts for political gain.”

The spending cuts are to be across the board, giving administrators limited flexibility to move money around. The Obama administration has made doomsday predictions about the impact of the cuts, and the White House so far has appeared unwilling to accept a Republican offer to give the president more autonomy in making the cuts. Obama said he would veto any legislation to that effect.

Some political strategists say the president hopes the cuts hurt enough to compel Republican lawmakers seeking re-election next year to cave in to his proposed tax increases. White House top economic advisor Gene Sperling said, “Our hope is as more Republicans start to see this pain in their own districts, they will choose bipartisan compromise over this absolutist position.”

Meanwhile, meat inspection furloughs may cause production problems that could cost the beef industry $10 million in sales. USDA will be required to furlough inspectors for 15 days through the end of October, when their fiscal year ends. There are 8,400 meat inspectors serving 6,290 meat processing operations. The entire program has a budget of $890 million. Roughly 75 percent of the budget goes to salaries for these unionized inspectors and their support staff. All that they are required to do is inspect the carcass; all the other testing is done by the packing company. Unfortunately, the packing companies are not allowed to pay for meat inspection on their own, by law.

USDA already has a plan in place that, if implemented properly, will have little impact on meat inspection. Notices went out to inspectors last week informing them of the cuts. Between government and union procedures, it will take roughly 60 days to fully implement the furloughs, which should start around May 1.

Playing politics is expected from government, but President Obama has taken it to a new level and it appears that is what this guy is all about. Administering a government isn’t in his play book. Threatening the country with his overplay of the miniscule spending cuts is shameful. The sequester was his idea and Republicans were willing to give him authority to make the cuts himself but he turned it down, telling us he doesn’t want a thing to do with managing any spending cuts. — PETE CROW

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