White House: Sequestration will hurt middle class
WASHINGTON — Louisiana stands to lose hundreds of teaching jobs, while thousands of Defense Department employees in the state are furloughed, and oil-and-gas permitting in the Gulf of Mexico is delayed, according to a White House report released Sunday evening.
The state-by-state reports on $85.4 billion in automatic spending cuts — called sequestration — scheduled to start going into effect Friday analyzed the potential effects of the cuts on defense and nondefense discretionary spending.
Larger airports will face major delays because of personnel cutbacks and mandatory time off without pay, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, and many smaller airports are on the potential hit list to have their air traffic control facilities closed starting in April. Those include the New Orleans Lakefront Airport, Lake Charles Regional Airport, Chennault International Airport in Lake Charles, Shreveport Downtown Airport and the Monroe Regional Airport.
The cuts for the rest of the year, if fully implemented, represent 13 percent for federal defense spending, 9 percent for nondefense spending and a roughly $10 billion hit for Medicare.
In education, the White House contends Louisiana would lose roughly $26 million this year, which would put about 340 teacher and aide jobs at risk, with much of the funding slated for serving students with disabilities. In addition, about 26,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 50 fewer schools would receive funding.
Those funds lost do not include roughly 1,400 Louisiana children losing services for Head Start early childhood education programs.
Almost 7,000 civilian defense department employees could lose a day of pay per week through furloughs because of nearly $36 million in reduced gross pay.
Louisiana Army bases would lose about $58 million in operational funds and Air Force operations would be cut by about $8 million.
The report even noted that a Blue Angels flight show could face cancellation at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport.
In other areas in Louisiana, the report estimates 1,730 fewer children would receive needed medical vaccines; 400 domestic violence victims would lose services; Meals on Wheels services for the elderly would lose nearly $500,000; and environmental efforts for clean water improvements and pollution reductions would face $2.5 million in losses.
Congress could halt the across-the-board cuts by either delaying implementation or reaching a compromise on how to enact the budget cuts in more targeted areas.
But Republicans and Democrats instead spent much of the weekend blaming each other for the situation.
Republicans want to focus almost entirely on federal deficit reduction while Democrats want what they call a more balanced approach. That approach would include increasing revenues by closing some tax loopholes and exemptions that they contend favor only the wealthy.
“Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans in Congress have decided that instead of compromising — instead of asking anything of the wealthiest Americans — they would rather let these cuts fall squarely on the middle class,” President Barack Obama said in his Saturday address.
“Here’s what that choice means. Once these cuts take effect, thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off, and tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, causing delays across the country.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is scheduled to meet with the president Monday in Washington, appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday and blamed Obama for the sequestration situation.
Jindal said Obama has “amnesia” on the matter because the idea for the sequester originated in the White House before Congress proposed and approved it in 2011.
Jindal said Obama needs to “step up to the plate” and that delaying the implementation of Obama’s health care law could solve much of the cuts.
“Just delay the Medicaid expansion. Delay the health care exchanges so they can work with the states on waivers, on flexibility,” Jindal said. “You can save tens of billions of dollars there and you’re not even cutting a program that’s started yet. Just delay them.”
In a conference call Sunday with reporters, White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer argued that Republicans are responsible for the across-the-board cuts.
The sequester came as a compromise in 2011 when House Republicans took the “unprecedented step” of holding the federal debt ceiling as a “hostage” to potentially force the federal government to default on its payments, he said.
The sequestration was set up as a poison pill in 2011 to force compromise, which never came. The cuts were supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1, but the fiscal cliff compromise on New Year’s Day delayed the cuts until March 1.
Pfeiffer said Obama and Democrats are ready to find cost savings and reforms in the costly Medicare and Social Security programs, but that Republicans have to agree to a balanced approach, such as cutting tax exemptions for corporate jets, the oil-and-gas industry and for shipping jobs overseas.
“It (the sequester) is going into effect because Republicans have chosen for it to go into effect,” Pfeiffer said.
“The Republicans are making a policy choice that these cuts are better than eliminating loopholes and exemptions that benefit the wealthy,” Pfeiffer said.