Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sequester Six Months Later: The impact

Six months after the sequester, everyone is wondering: how big of an impact has it been. Back in December, I started posting doomsday predictions and other analyses of what we, the innocent bystanders to all this political bickering and needless confrontation, were to expect somewhere down the line. 

As expected, those hit were federal workers and those relying on federal programs. The IRS had announced several furloughs since January, which means, in simple terms, they had selected several days to close down to manage payroll costs. Some days were canceled and operations went on as usual, but other closures were honored. This comes at the expense of its workers since they had to take the day off with no pay. 

Is there any relief? Most likely not. Politicians are still fighting over the 2014 budget, there's immigration reform to consider and don't forget the tax reform debate of yesteryears.  We are still unable to agree what our priorities, as a nation, are. Do we protect the needy, give rich people tax shelters, or just cross our arms and pout? Seems like all our leaders are doing is running around in circles with the same accusations, excuses, and rhetoric. Unfortunately, the level of uncertainty is still high, which impacts economic growth, and more importantly, consumer perception of how our government is performing. Depending on the direction that goes, up or down, the economy can either improve, remain the same, or decline. 

When I reported on the sequester last year, it was my intention to track the predictions being solicited over the media airways and in print. Thankfully, the Washington Post took the initiative and did the job for me. Here's what the sequester has done so far: 

 Affect on the poor:  
  - It was initially predicted that federal programs would be gravely affected. So far, those eligible for rental assistance will see a reduction in aid. In fact, The Dept of Agriculture estimates that sometime this month, 15,000 needy renters will not receive this assistance. 
   - It was believed that public assistance would be cut. Turns out it wasn't. In fact, the government came through and was able to continue assistance as usual. 
   - Same goes for other forms of public welfare. Since last year, many of those predictions have either been restated or not materialized. 
Government services:  
  -     Unemployment funds were cut by nine percent for 3.8 million people as it was initially believed. 
  -   Workplace safety might be jeopardized as OSHA has cut down on the number of inspections it performs. 
  - Aside from shutting down office buildings and more wait time at some offices, no dire changes have happened.  

So if we look at this broadly, some are serious and others remain unchanged. Which seems to amount to political business as usual. We shall see what the new wave of strife brings. 

To learn more: visit http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/sequestration-federal-agency-update/m/

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