Coburn, GAO: Sequester Resulted In Exactly One Layoff

Akash Chougule Policy Analyst, Americans for Prosperity
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Remember those doomsday predictions during the dark days of the sequester? Threats of friendly policemen, neighborhood teachers, and small-town public servants losing their jobs as a result of nominal reductions in Washington spending? Well, it turns out those horror stories never came true. Throughout last year, President Obama told America that if sequestration cuts went into effect, the consequences would be dire. The White House’s apocalyptic “fact sheet” detailed myriad ways sequestration would put thousands of jobs at risk and jeopardize countless government programs. But thanks to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) publicized by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, we now know those scare tactics were largely baseless – and that sequestration resulted in the grand total of one public sector layoff.

According to the GAO, “to achieve partial savings required by sequestration,” the U.S. Parole Commission “implemented a reduction in force of one employee.” It was the only such layoff caused by the budget cuts. Senator Coburn explained, “[T]he facts seem to say the experts underestimated sequestration’s impact by between 99,999 and 1,599,999 jobs.” These predictions were in addition to the 4 million fewer meals for seniors, 600,000 women and children losing entitlement benefits, and 373,000 mentally ill people potentially going untreated, among other hellish scenarios the White House press office foresaw.

While the minimal effect of sequestration is relieving news for the country, it comes as an embarrassment to Washington insiders who warned that a miniscule lapse in the growth of the federal government would be devastating for the nation – a point not lost on Senator Coburn.

“Washington politicians and administration officials … spent months – and millions of dollars – engaging in a … public relations campaign to scare the American people,” Coburn wrote. “Taxpayers expect us to root our predictions in fact, not ideology and spin.”

The American people were not fooled by the Beltway fearmongering, but apparently many of Coburn’s colleagues in Congress were – as they ultimately reneged on their own promise and broke the sequester’s spending caps in the Ryan-Murray budget agreement.

Still, sequester cuts were an enormous victory for all those concerned with the nation’s $17 trillion national debt. It was a clear indication of just how inefficient and wasteful the federal government truly is. Sequestration finally forced the government to have to make ends meet with less – exactly what American families have had to do for years in a weak economy.

Ironically, even many of the White House’s false warnings pale in comparison to the damage that big government and excessive federal spending have wrought and continue to threaten upon the American economy. President Obama’s “fact” sheet included potential sequester nightmares like putting 10,000 teachers, 1,600 state and local employees, 1,000 federal agents, and 1,000 private sector jobs at risk. By comparison, the president’s health care law will shrink the economy by the equivalent of 2.5 million full time workers, and Senate Democrats’ proposal to raise the minimum wage would reduce total employment by about 500,000 jobs. But sequestration resulted in one layoff.

Dr. Coburn’s release is another reminder of why millions of Americans have lost faith in their own government. Unsurprisingly, it seems the people who most jealously guard the privilege of big government are those who have the most power at stake within it. But outside of Washington, people understand that the true engine of prosperity and backbone of the country is the private economy and the entrepreneurialism that fuels it – not bloated government payrolls, budgets, or bureaucracy.

Akash Chougule is a policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity.