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Narrow majority concerned about impact of sequester

Rochester Business Journal
March 1, 2013

Slightly more than half of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll expressed concern earlier this week about across-the-board federal spending cuts known as the sequester, slated to kick in today unless Congress and President Barack Obama reached an eleventh-hour deal on deficit reduction.

Sequestration would mean $85 billion in funding cuts—roughly 9 percent of non-defense programs and 13 percent of defense spending—for the rest of fiscal year 2013.

The mandatory cuts to both military and domestic programs were included in the 2011 Budget Control Act as a mechanism to force Congress and the White House to compromise on further deficit reduction.

The plurality of Snap Poll respondents—44 percent—said they would blame Obama if no deficit-reduction deal were reached before the sequester deadline. Twenty-eight percent said Republicans in Congress would bear most responsibility; the remaining poll participants said both parties would be equally to blame.

Among Republicans, 62 percent said they would hold Obama responsible, compared with 11 percent who’d blame members of their party in Congress. Fewer than 8 percent of Democrats faulted Obama, while 76 percent blamed congressional Republicans.

Under the sequester, government spending would be reduced by $1.2 trillion over the next decade. The impact this year in New York would include the loss of nearly $43 million in funding for primary and secondary education and $36 million for education of children with disabilities. Some programs—among them Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps and active-duty military personnel—would be exempt.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the cuts this year would lower GDP by 0.5 percent and cause the unemployment rate to rise to 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Nearly 730 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Feb. 25 and 26.

Are you concerned about the impact of the sequester?
Very concerned: 32%
Somewhat concerned: 20%
Not very concerned: 24%
Not at all concerned: 24%

If President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress fail to reach a deficit-reduction deal before the March 1 sequester deadline, who will bear most responsibility?
President Obama: 44%
Republicans in Congress: 28%
Both equally: 27%

What is your political affiliation?
Democrat: 18%
Republican: 37%
Non-affiliated: 40%
Other: 5%

COMMENTS:

Cuts are necessary now and in the future. However, department heads should be chartered with cutting from everyone’s budget. It should not be done across the board and arbitrarily. That is typical of this president and Congress. They have no clue on how to run a business, just running for re-election.
—Gary M. Baker, president, Cochran, Cochran & Yale

Sequestration cuts to education alone in New York State could result in the 2013 loss of $42.7 million for primary and secondary education and $36.3 million for education for children with disabilities. These cuts would put more than 1,000 teacher and aide jobs at risk this year.
—Elizabeth Wilder, Grantmakers Forum of NY

Just the mere threat of these defense cuts is killing the optics industry in Rochester now.
—Eric Bourgeois

Of course I am concerned about those families that may be negatively impacted by the cuts, but the reality is that our country (like a family that has a budget crisis) needs to reduce its out-of-control spending. As a country, we cannot simply take out the “credit card” and spend ourselves into bankruptcy.
—Ted Welter, Welter Realty LLC

This is much ado about very little. When you dig into every “crisis” that seems to come along every few months with the federal budget, the reality is that not much happens when the so-called deadline comes and goes. Life goes on; America sinks deeper into debt. The chickens will finally come home to roost someday, but not today.
—Bob Sarbane

This is not a real cut, although we could use it. It is a reduction in the increase; government spending will still be up over last year. When do we ask government to do their “fair share”?
—C. Garbowski

The only real impact will be on our military. This small reduction is necessary if we ever are going to pay our debts and live within our means.
—John Sackett

The future of our nation’s economy deserves to be treated better. Our federal government refuses to collaborate to solve any issue. Rather, the issues are being pulled at like a child caught in the middle of a custody battle. If anyone in Washington is listening and or reading, please stop bickering and take some serious time trying to solve this dilemma.
—Vinny Dallo, New York Life

Through all the bluster and dire warnings, the politicians in Washington need to get off their high horses and try to make real cuts in spending. To cut $85 billion out of $3.8 trillion in expenses is a pittance. Real cuts in spending are needed—say, $1 trillion in the next year!
—Bruce Anderson, Alpha & Omega Parable Christian Stores

I’m less concerned about the impact of the sequester than I am of the impact of continuing as usual. Unfortunately, there seems to be no willingness within the Obama administration to work on spending reductions.
—David Schiffhauer

I’m really tired of this political BS. The world won’t end if taxes go up, but real people will be hurt immediately if they have their jobs cut because of the reduction.
—Damian Kumor

Couple things: 1. The sequester does not cut enough spending, we do have a spending problem not a revenue problem. 2. It will be the Republicans who are blamed because the media, including RBJ, are very much left of center. Most of all, this president has accomplished nothing but spend money, point fingers and take zero responsibility for anything. He is the most embarrassing president I can remember. Well Jimmy Carter is up there, too.
—Dan Morgan

It is bitter medicine that is long overdue. The federal budget is $3,700 billion, and the cut is $85 billion (or 2 percent). All this crying over 2 percent? Deficit spending under this president has been out of control, four years in a row. We survived the "great recession," and we will survive this 2 percent cut, as well.
—George Thomas, Ogden

I am concerned about the lack of a broader vision being articulated in an actionable form: Clean up the tax system and take out all the special deals, bring spending under control, make the obvious fixes to Social Security and revisit health system to change incentives, etc. It's like watching a bunch of 14-year-olds picking at each other on trivial matters rather than showing statesmanship. No one seems willing to step forward and lead.
—Bryan Hickman

When will our Congress get on with the hard work of governing instead of stalemating? The operative word is compromise. If the sequester is allowed to stand the pay of all congressmen and the president should be stopped with no ability to recoup once agreement is reached.
—Art Maurer, Penfield

The current situation shows that we don't have a process that embraces compromise.
—Deborah Cox, ComTec Solutions

It's annoying that the media and pundits are so accepting of this big lie. Talking heads on Sunday TV simply dismiss the sequester demand by the president as something he had to do to get past the election. Now that he's in for another four years, he can revisit his position! Last month's tax increase is history, now let's get more. And it seems that almost everyone has already forgotten the 2 percent payroll tax increase from January. And no politician or newsperson appears to notice that gas prices are again approaching $4 and that prices are spiking about three months ahead of any "normal" cycle. Unemployment is still 8 percent plus, it's worse among minorities and the younger folks, etc. And while Congress fiddles, the first lady can spend millions on a quick trip to the Oscars for a presentation and to party with the clueless.
—Bob Miglioratti

I am more concerned about the continued inability for the TWO parties to work together. Politics is politics. Relative to federal sustainability Simpson-Bowles is a good package. The chances of getting something close to this passed are very slim.
—Mike Bleeg, Strategic Results

Take special interest money away from Washington, we can start running a country again.
—Harold H. Ley, Stony Point Consultant

We all know that we need to reduce spending. It is the government’s responsibility to make sure the least amount of people is hurt. With this government they want to make sure the most amount of people are hurt. They only care about "winning," they have no idea anymore why they were elected. Just follow the money and worry about where their next payout is coming from. This is true of both parties. Look at who both parties have selected as their leaders. The four congressional leaders couldn't run a Seven-11corner store and turn a profit, yet they think they can run a country. They all forget none of them has ever been elected by the majority of the people to lead us anywhere.
—John Weaver

This continued game is beyond ridiculous.
—M. Curtain, Rochester

This type of legislation is (what) is wrong with our governments, from the federal levels down. Laws passed based on the PR effect with no thought to the consequences. Did no one think it would happen? A clear example of being careful what you ask for, you may not like what you get.
—Frank Muscato

An informed person will find it laughable that a less than 2 percent budget cut can cause "Armageddon" … but then there's always that 47% out there.
—Tom Wahl Jr.

Once again we face a political game of "chicken." Who will blink first? The biggest impact will be on Department of Defense contractors and the military. Although social services will take a hit, it's not as draconian as some might suggest, although there will be pain. The biggest impact will be upon the confidence of investors and the public at large when unemployment rises and our fragile recovery is stalled. Right now the public seems more inclined to blame congress, since their approval rating is very low. States such as Virginia with significant DOD contracts will feel a big impact. Congress and the Republicans should bite the bullet once and for all, and compromise on tax reform and come out of this looking like heroes to most American voters.
—Frank Orienter, Rochester

Did people really think they could spend money they didn’t have forever? What a stupid electorate.
—Karl Schuler

If this is what it takes to cut spending, so be it. This process should go into effect times 10! All the smoke and mirrors can't hide the problem of excessive spending. Couple that with waste and government "investment" into the federal "dollars for donors" program (think Solyndra and electric batteries) and the perfect storm of socialist incompetence at its best is on display. Cut government pay and pensions, cut welfare programs, deport illegals, eliminate the Department of Education, HUD, Fannie & Freddie, TSA, Homeland Security and on and on. There is so much bureaucracy and waste that a 25 percent cut across the board of government administration would be a good place to start. Imagine if Schumer's staff and satellite offices got cut by 25 percent. Think he could represent you any worse? Multiply that times Congress, House, Senate and state. Think real deep about the amount of waste and opulence going on within our government and then watch the clowns on television with their crocodile tears of fear, doom and gloom that they use to influence the dim and ignorant. Remember that our elected officials are the ones that got us here in the first place. Trusting them to come up with a solution and implementing it is like handing matches to an arsonist and turning away. In that case, we deserve the results we get (and they know it). So in the end, I'm for sequester times 10!
—Lou Romano 

Reducing the rate of growth in our runaway spending by a few percent is a good thing and the President Obama's campaign to paint this as the end of the world is dishonest and out of line. I have my doubts that even if the sequester cuts take effect; it will do little to slow down the spending problem that this country has had for years. Our Congress has been focused on increasing the control and power of the Federal government over our lives and we the people have been foolish enough to continue re-elect the same people who are failing us. This continues to be done aided in large part by a partisan press who has become part of the problem as they fail to do the job of objectively reporting the news and vetting the candidates. I hope we all wake up soon enough to start the process of electing a Congress and a President who adheres to the Constitution and accepts that government is not the solution to our problems. As Reagan said, it is the problem!
—Dave Coriale, Webster

The sequester cuts the rate of growth of the government. Its true effect is minimal. Obama proposed the sequester because the President would not list any program worth cutting; he now "blames" the Republicans for intransigence. The House should take an hour to pass a bill giving complete discretion to the Executive to determine what programs should be cut. If those cuts are to the TSA in small airports in Republican districts, so be it.
—Peter Durant, Nixon Peabody LLP

I'll be concerned— and care—when I learn what the word really means and how to spell it.
—Bruno Sniders, Webster

This is complete hyperbole on the part of the White House. In the past 11 years, federal spending has DOUBLED across the board. This has to stop! What part of spending more than revenues does this administration not understand?
—James Stevens

We now need to face the music and allow these cuts to happen. Our budget deficit is far too large and growing. If we were shut down the entire government today, the tax inflows (revenue) would not even be able to cover the four line items of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest payments. It's time to start cutting now. Yes, it would be better to execute planned cuts, but obviously we don't have the discipline in the federal government to take on this responsibility. So, let's leave it to the sequester.
—Dyke Smith

Do intelligent people really believe that our democracy is working the way it was intended? The root cause of Congress' failure to put the people first is the fact that Campaign Finance Reform never made it across the finish line. Why would the people in Congress whose future is tied to this legislation be willing to do the heavy lifting to secure passage into law? Real reform and true compromise, meaning what's good for the nation as a whole, will not occur until that legislation is enacted.
—Tom Sargent

There is no theory of economics where cutting government leads to prosperity. We know how to get out of a recession/depression. Unlike the lies spread by the right for five years, inflation and interest rates have remained at historical lows while corporate profits have more than doubled in that time period. More than 20 percent of what the private sector sells is purchased by government. Please tell me how reducing that will help the private sector.
—Jim Bertolone, president Rochester AFL-CIO

What's the big deal? Most of the media is portraying this as a crisis. However, what do you expect from a vast majority of the bias media who are in Obama’s back pocket. This is an $85 billion cut, which represents 2 percent to 3 percent of annual spending. In fact, world-renowned economist John Taylor of Stanford University has stated that the “real” cuts will be more like $44 billion, which would represent just more than 1 percent. President Obama is either an economic imbecile or a left wing fanatic. Look where his policies have gotten us, a federal debt approaching $17 trillion and at this pace it will be at $26 trillion in 10 years. At the same time national unemployment and underemployment is high and GDP growth is low. We are on our way to the fifth $1 trillion plus deficit in a row. This administration is by far the biggest gross and deficit spender in world history. In order to break Obama’s disastrous policies the government sector must relinquish capital and transfer it to the private sector through spending and tax cuts. The sequester is good because it will force the obese federal government to go on a diet and put more resources in the hands of the private sector.
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy and Associates Inc.

It's the equivalent of a worker earning roughly $24,000 per year, but spending $35,000 per year, deciding to "tighten the belt" by reducing spending by $850. A pittance poorly planned. The children running this country ought to hang their heads in shame for fabricating such a preposterous "crisis."
—Tom Shea, Thomas P Shea Agency, Inc.

The "sequester" is simply another Obama lie. The entire legislative and executive branches of the Federal government are totally dysfunctional and led by morons. There are no cuts, merely reductions in budget increases. The country needs several such "sequesters" to bring spending under control.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield

Obama and the democrat's lapdog media; NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, CNN and NPR will be sure to do their best to misinform the public as to what the 'sequester' actually does. None of them will be responsible and truthful enough to make sure that their wonderfully ill-informed audience will understand that the sequester cuts nothing. The sequester simply returns the government to funding levels of 2011, no programs are really 'cut' they are just forced to live with fewer dollars taken from available private capital by the government from the productive members of our society which includes wealthy Americans and corporations both of which could better use that stolen capital to create more employment and government programs are being forced to do what most of us taxpayers have had to do—cut our expenses and live with less.
—Michael F. Kloppel, chairman, Ontario County Conservative Party Canandaigua

What, me worry? There really isn't much to worry about. They are only cutting $45B this year out of a total budget of $3,600 billion. This is less than the planned growth in spending, so there is actually going to be no cuts. Also, the Republicans have caved and will let the president do the cutting. We can count on President Obama to insure that no essential services are cut. Since he has been running the government for four years, I'm sure he knows where cuts are needed. As an experienced executive, he can be counted on to handle the situation efficiently. The only real cuts will be to DOD. But since the war on terror is over and Al Qaida is defeated, Obama was planning to weaken the military anyway. That's why he brought in another experienced executive, Chuck Hagel, to run the defense department. We can all sleep better at night now.
—Dennis Ditch, Delta Square Inc.

3/1/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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