AP: Agencies 'Found' Billions to Get Through Sequestration, But 'Second Round Will Be a Lot Worse'

November 11th, 2013 8:23 PM

Even though government operational outlays didn't really go down at all in fiscal 2013 compared to fiscal 2012, several government agencies ended up raiding slush funds (my term) to get through sequestration, the tiny reductions in previously increased projected spending which took effect during the second half of the fiscal year.

This evening at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, Andrew Taylor identified some of those slush funds, and dutifully warned the nation about how rough the next round of sequestration will allegedly be during fiscal 2014 (bolds are mine):



It's not just longstanding battles over taxes and curbing mandatory spending that are obstacles to a year-end pact on the budget. Another problem is a perception among some lawmakers that the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration haven't been as harsh as advertised.

Indeed, the first year of the automatic cuts didn't live up to the dire predictions from the Obama administration and others who warned of sweeping furloughs and big disruptions of government services.

But the second round is going to be a lot worse, lawmakers and budget experts say. One reason is that federal agencies that have emptied the change jar and searched beneath the sofa cushions for money to ease the pain of sequestration have been so far able to make it through the automatic cuts relatively unscathed. Employee furloughs haven't been as extensive as feared and agencies were able to maintain most services.

Most of that money, however, has been spent in the 2013 budget year that ended on Sept. 30.

The Pentagon used more than $5 billion in unspent money from previous years to ease its $39 billion budget cut. Furloughs originally scheduled for 11 days were cut back to six days. The Justice Department found more than $500 million in similar money that allowed agencies like the FBI to avoid furloughs altogether.

Foolish me. I would have thought all unspent money would be returned to the Treasury at the end of each fiscal year or netted against next year's appropriations. That's certainly what should happen.

Continuing, while adding to the slush fund count:

Finding replacement cuts is the priority of budget talks scheduled to resume this week, but many observers think the talks won't bear fruit.

... Accounts for housing vouchers for the poor took a hit in 2013, but most local housing agencies had previously appropriated but unspent money in reserve.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank and advocacy group for the poor, calculated that 40,000 to 65,000 fewer families will have vouchers by the end of this year than at the end of 2012. By the end of 2014, between 125,000 and 185,000 fewer families would have vouchers if the automatic spending cuts stay in place unchanged, the center said, and that could mean some families might lose their apartments.

Taylor never tells readers that the number of households receiving Section 8 vouchers is about 3.1 million. So the reduction might be 4 percent to 6 percent of the Section 8 population. Don't even try to tell me that there aren't at least that many Section 8 recipients who are getting vouchers they are either not entitled to or are far larger than justified based on the real incomes of those involved.

As to overall government spending, the dirty little secret no one at AP or apparently anyone else will tell is that operational government outlays increased from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2013, something the Congressional Budget Office conveniently disclosed on Thursday:


Outlays on government operations increased by 1.4 percent in fiscal 2013. Note that the only two areas where real reductions in outlays occurred were in defense and unemployment benefits. Everything else in operational outlays increased by a combined 4.8 percent.

Reported total spending in fiscal 2013 only came in lower than 2012 because of dividend payments from government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The real cuts in operational outlays inflicting real pain have all been in defense, which is sadly all too typical.

I really wish that for once the people complaining about "cuts" would hold their tongues until they are actually going to experience them. I also wish that for once the press would only relay those complaints when real cuts are involved. Right now, the only people with a legitimate beef are those in the military.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.