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How Sequestration Will Affect Federal Research Agencies

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the turning-the-lights-off dept.

Science 277

carmendrahl writes "Unless Congress and the White House act before March 1, the automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester will kick in. And federal agencies are bracing for the fiscal impact. Federal agencies and the White House are releasing details about how these cuts will affect their operations. If the cuts take effect, expect fewer inspections to the food supply, cuts to programs that support cleanups at former nuclear plants, and plenty of researcher layoffs, among other things."

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I know something about research (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977581)

I sequestered your Mom's ass last night

Mmm... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42977603)

spring time... flu season [reuters.com] , isn't it? Comes summer with increased risk of food poisoning?

Monthly dance (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977609)

You know they will somehow extend this hard deadline, just like the last.. three times? I lost count.

Re:Monthly dance (4, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | about a year ago | (#42978315)

How terrible - we go back to spending levels of 2011! It was like we were a third world then!

Re:Monthly dance (3, Insightful)

halltk1983 (855209) | about a year ago | (#42978415)

Well, kids, unless Dad and I can get another credit card I think we might have to cut back on your toy purchases, cause God knows we're not cutting back on cigarettes or McDonalds! It's all those damn credit card companies fault you're not getting birthday presents, and definitely not our budgeting ability!

Re:Monthly dance (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978843)

Weak metaphor, mostly because the US has no issue raising money, alas our rates are at record lows. Additionally, comparing government finances to personal finances is completely assinine and shows incredible ignorance on the subject.

Re:Monthly dance (0)

hsmith (818216) | about a year ago | (#42978865)

Our interest rates are so low because our government can't afford to pay them if they were higher.

Re:Monthly dance (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978923)

If people thought they were too risky, they wouldn't buy. Our interest rates are low because of the safety of the almight dollar, not because our government unilaterally dicates that the private market will buy them.

Re:Monthly dance (2)

Nimey (114278) | about a year ago | (#42978933)

Wrong. The interest rates are low to stimulate the economy. If the Fed raised rates back to historic levels costs of borrowing for private organizations would go up and the economy would slow.

But don't let facts get in the way of GOVERNMENT BAD WHARRGARBL.

Re:Monthly dance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978981)

TBill rates are set by supply, demand, monetary policy, inflation, and overall market conditions.
Ever take macroecon? Nevermind, your ignorance is just as valuable as my knowledge.

Chaos (2)

MrDoh! (71235) | about a year ago | (#42977635)

So there'll be the inevitable food poisoning outbreak, nuke reactors not getting the full checks (one would hope they were doing it right before, anything less...), oh, and the weather warnings will be heavy hit with "NOAA expects 1,400 contractors would be let go, 2,700 positions would not be filled, and 2,600 employees would be furloughed." Well, that's one way for people to help deny climate change "What hurricane? I see no hurricane"

Sheer bloody idiots. They couldn't get their act together to get sensible budgets, so now we end up with this. Shame it's not tied into Politicians' pay, but they're probably getting their cuts of the pie from the people who will benefit from all this.

Re:Chaos (3, Informative)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | about a year ago | (#42977675)

Shame it's not tied into Politicians' pay,

Actually, their pay (Congress/Senate) is supposed to be withheld until the sequestration ends.
If this is the end of the civilized world, as some are fearmongering it, why was Obama out on a golf vacation instead of working on the budget? Does this show how seriously he takes it? Sequestration was his idea after all.

Re:Chaos (5, Informative)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | about a year ago | (#42978289)

Actually, their pay (Congress/Senate) is supposed to be withheld until the sequestration ends.

Unlike the rest of federal employees who won't get their pay back after sequestration ends, congressmen/senators will.

If this is the end of the civilized world, as some are fearmongering it, why was Obama out on a golf vacation instead of working on the budget?

It is the legislative branch who has failed to act, not the executive.

Does this show how seriously he takes it? Sequestration was his idea after all.

Though Obama proposed the idea, 174 House Republicans, a majority of the majority, joined 95 Democrats to pass the plan. So Republicans arguably own the sequester as much as Obama, if not more so, since Obama never wanted to link spending cuts to the debt ceiling.

Re:Chaos (0)

halltk1983 (855209) | about a year ago | (#42978439)

Yeah, those bastard Republicans. Why do they always insist on tying spending to how much credit is available? I mean, the government works with the fed to just print more money! Works great in Zimbabwe! (Not a Republican, but I'm worse when it comes to this area. I'm a libertarian.)

Re:Chaos (2)

AvitarX (172628) | about a year ago | (#42978579)

The credit.is available though (not saying we.should borrow more, just saying you should speak truth).

of course the response to not being able to borrow very well could be printing (well casting) more money (see trillion dollar coin).

Re:Chaos (2)

halltk1983 (855209) | about a year ago | (#42978841)

The "credit" is only available because the government has the ability to raise its own limits. Until the day when everyone stops buying bonds. I'm saying that we should stop needing to sell bonds before they become worthless.

Also, the fed stated that they wouldn't accept trillion dollar coins. That's the hard part about allowing an independent organization to be in control of the fiat currency system.

Re:Chaos (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978971)

The "credit" is only available because the government has the ability to raise its own limits. Until the day when everyone stops buying bonds. I'm saying that we should stop needing to sell bonds before they become worthless.

The interest on government bonds is less than inflation and they still sell well, which is an indication that the market is quite far from considering them worthless.

The other thing that the low rates suggests is that lowering taxes wouldn't create a flood of private sector investments. Right now there's a metric fuckton of money tied on bonds that lose money every day and no one is in a rush to employ it more productively so there isn't a good reason to believe that tax cut money would end up funding innovation.

Re:Chaos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978643)

Why do they always insist on tying spending to how much credit is available?

Where have you been for the past 50 years?

Re:Chaos (1)

halltk1983 (855209) | about a year ago | (#42978855)

In a way, they do. They just keep increasing their credit limits every couple of years. Obviously this plan has no down side and cannot possibly fail.

Re:Chaos (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978827)

If by "always" you mean "whenever a Democrat is president", sure. They gave precisely zero fucks about deficit spending for the past three Republican presidents.

Re:Chaos (1)

drdread66 (1063396) | about a year ago | (#42978807)

Um, no. [yahoo.com]

Summary: the 27th amendment prevents Congress from altering its own salary during the same session, and the sequestration deal was originally struck to apply to the same session.

So, our crongresscritters will continue to get paid as they avoid doing the job they were hired to do.

Re:Chaos (4, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year ago | (#42977703)

"expect fewer inspections to the food supply..."

Over here in Europe we have tons of Horse-Lasagne that we can finally drop off then.

Re:Chaos (3, Funny)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year ago | (#42977993)

Nah we've been doing that for years we just changed the name to Taco Bell :)

Re:Chaos (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#42978993)

We used to sell horses to oher countries for food. Then someone noticed and Congress sprang into action, doing what they do best -- pandering to blowing public sentiments.

Same old same old (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977653)

Whenever a government department is threatened with cuts, they announce that they'll cut front-line staff and not overpaid managers or worthless paper-pushers. That's why government spending expands forever until the economy collapses.

Re:Same old same old (2)

daem0n1x (748565) | about a year ago | (#42978281)

Unfortunately, the same can be said about private companies, or any other human organisation. Humans will be humans, you know.

Re:Same old same old (5, Insightful)

JWW (79176) | about a year ago | (#42978347)

Bullshit. Private companies, when faced with budget shortfalls, make across the board budget cuts all the time. It's a very common tactic.

This fear mongering is making me sick. $80 billion in cuts is going to "cripple" our $3.4 Trillion government? They are they lying their asses off.

Re:Same old same old (5, Informative)

john.r.strohm (586791) | about a year ago | (#42978413)

From a David Casey online newsletter, courtesy of a friend's blog:

Lesson #1

US Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000
New debt: $1,650,000,000,000
National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
Recent budget cuts: $38,500,000,000

Let’s now remove 8 zeros and pretend it’s a household budget:

* Annual family income: $21,700
* Money the family spent: $38,200
* New debt on the credit card: $16,500
* Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
* Total budget cuts so far: $385

Re:Same old same old (2)

john.r.strohm (586791) | about a year ago | (#42978451)

Sorry, that should be Doug Casey. The URL for his piece is http://www.caseyresearch.com/cdd/lessons-argentine [caseyresearch.com] , the table is near the end.

I got it from http://howardleeharkness.com/2013/01/how-did-we-get-in-this-mess/ [howardleeharkness.com] . He's an old friend. Note that he corrected one of Casey's numbers, where Casey slipped a decimal point.

Re:Same old same old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978431)

What? Budget cuts in private companies usually mean taking the employees' pension funds and funnelling them into golden parachutes and bonuses for executives.

Re:Same old same old (1)

halltk1983 (855209) | about a year ago | (#42978465)

Like many rich folks, the government extended its budget so that it could barely get by on what it brings in. They need to learn to live within our means. Sure, it'll be a hard lesson to learn, but I'd rather make the sacrifice now than leave it to my kids to clean up in 30 years. Where are all the "think of the children" folks on things that actually matter?

Re:Same old same old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978623)

No, you don't get it. It's you that needs to learn to live within your means. That is what the sequester is all about. Taking from you and giving to banks and military industries.

Re:Same old same old (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978655)

Private companies, when faced with budget shortfalls, make across the board budget cuts all the time.

Bullshit. They close down some departments here and there and sack a few thousand workers, socialize any debt and get bailed out by the govt to the thunderous applause of the republicans and libertarians who see government supporting private industry as its only function and then they give massive pay increases and bonuses to the executives because they "saved the company"

Wake up you moron.

Re:Same old same old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978765)

Yup, that's why US CEOs make hundreds of times more than the average worker even while their company fails.
I call BS.

Re:Same old same old (0, Flamebait)

shilly (142940) | about a year ago | (#42978391)

This is not insightful. It's the sodding cause of the crisis. Ideological fucktards like this vote in ideological fucktard Teapartiers. These Teapartiers then say "We need to force these agencies to cut paper-pushers and not the front line" and so they implement a rule requiring across-the-board cuts with no discretion to apply more of the cut to one project or department than another. And what is the result of that? Do the fucktards who voted in the Teaparty fucktards now say "hurray for the teapartiers? At last we get to cut paper-pushers and not just frontline staff". As Mr Fucktard here shows, no they do not. Because their view was nothing to do with facts in the first place, and was all to do with masturbation for what passes for their minds. Of course, the unintended consequence is that many programs are required to become sub-scale, ie their output per dollar input falls due to lumpy scale curves with significant semi-variable and fixed costs. And all to satisfy a bunch of fucktards who have to be reminded to only use one side of the paper to wipe and *still* walk out the bathroom with shit on their fingers.

Re:Same old same old (1)

halltk1983 (855209) | about a year ago | (#42978481)

I know. We should call in the Bobs from Office Space. Surely that would get things under control.

Re:Same old same old (0)

JWW (79176) | about a year ago | (#42978685)

Sure, the people who want the country to get back to spending within its means are fucktards, and the people who want to pile up deficits and debt forever are noble leaders.

With all due respect your comment is a crock of shit.

the bizarre part to this (3, Informative)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#42977657)

It's worth noting that all this discomfort only results in a drop of $85 billion. In part, that is because mandatory spending, which is something like 60% of the budget, isn't affected.

Still, looking at the list, there's a number of worthy budget cuts, such as the oversized federal law enforcement, small business loans, and various "government service" rent seeking. And one really has a hard time arguing against a 13% cut back in defense spending.

As I see it, the problem with sequestering isn't that it cuts government services, but that by its nature it can't target less effective spending or any mandatory spending at all.

Re:the bizarre part to this (3, Informative)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#42977781)

But do you really want congress to micromanage cuts? Think about that for a bit.

The way this is working out, the secretaries and/or chiefs of each major department are going to make the choice of what is going to get cut within their department and thats surely better than having congress micromanage the cuts. The only time this isnt the case is with earmarked spending, and fuck most of that spending anyways.

This is the only way cuts should be done, and cuts are much needed pretty much everywhere. Every department aside from NASA has ballooned out of control, and even in NASA's case some of the spending is highly dubious ($8 billion on the Webb telescope? Some serious, possibly criminal, inefficiency is happening here.)

I think we would all like to see the DoD budget cut a lot more, but than in no way means that the DoE, DoA, DHS, FDA, .. and so forth should not also see major cuts.

Re:the bizarre part to this (4, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about a year ago | (#42977925)

The problem, as pointed out by others, is that the department heads tend to cut the wrong things, deliberately. They make sure that it's the public rather than the department itself feeling necessity's sharp pinch. The Trashmaster General will not cut redundant management layers or cancel the 70 man junket to GarbageCon'13, but will instead reduce service levels and let the trash pile up in the streets. Not because it is easier (which it is), but because it will cause a public outcry so that, with a little luck, his budget will be back to its former levels the next year.

Congress shouln't micromanage these cuts, but isn't it their job to make sure the secretaries cut the right things in the right way, and set them straight if they don't? (Not sure how that works; I am not from the US But don't worry, we're in the same boat over here).

Re:the bizarre part to this (2)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#42978015)

The problem, as pointed out by others, is that the department heads tend to cut the wrong things, deliberately.

There is a difference between conjecture and "pointing out." Most of these departments have never seen a budget cut through their entire history, where the oft-used term "cut" has historically meant a reduction in the rate of increase of their budgets rather than any actual budget cut.

So as far as I can tell, you are just conjecturing that these departments will "cut the wrong things", that they have never actually been forced to cut before.

Re:the bizarre part to this (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about a year ago | (#42978039)

I'm speaking from experience, which is not in the US. Budget cuts are common here, and the reaction of budget holders is frequently as described, though I should have written "threaten to" rather than "tend to", because those inappropriate measures are rarely actually carried out after the desired public outcry.

Re:the bizarre part to this (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#42978191)

So as far as I can tell, you are just conjecturing that these departments will "cut the wrong things", that they have never actually been forced to cut before.

I have to agree with JaredOfEuropa. It's a classic move. To give an example related to what you mentioned earlier, NASA has on occasion threatened to cut more important or high profile programs in order to save their funding. For example, they've threatened to end Hubble Space Telescope on more than one occasion.

Re:the bizarre part to this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978403)

"Most of these departments have never seen a budget cut through their entire history"

Incorrect, but only partially. Many of these departments have never dealt with cuts, but many have, DOD certainly has. More-so when you get to more local levels and in such cases the observation is entirely accurate. When cities are faced with budget shortages they always cut front line police and fire first.

Re:the bizarre part to this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978045)

This time the most egregious story I've heard it that due to cuts in inspectors they will have to close meat packing plants.
    Very clever move, but seems like a demonstration of the problem which caused the cut in the first place.

The inaction it the Congress only reflects the fact that enough folks are pissed to gum up the works but not fix it.
    (Fix as in passing an actual, balanced budget.)

They need to figure out how to wisely use the money they take through taxes and inflation.
      Given that, less money should provide much more lasting effect.
          Outside the beltway has figured that out, inside needs to as well.

As for the example in the article, if they notched down the pay to each researcher 5%, things would work out.
      I say this because 2 recessions ago, we chose a 10% pay reduction instead of a force reduction.
          A few more hamburgers, but all worked out.

Perhaps only burgers in the congressional dining rooms until they get the memo that all spending is discretionary.

Re:the bizarre part to this (1)

msauve (701917) | about a year ago | (#42978213)

"Congress shouln't micromanage these cuts, but isn't it their job to make sure the secretaries cut the right things in the right way,"

No, that's the President's responsibility - he is, after all, head of the Executive branch of government.

Re:the bizarre part to this (0)

halltk1983 (855209) | about a year ago | (#42978561)

The answer here is to bring in consultants. I'm actually not really kidding. Bring in folks to analyze the processes, trim the fat, and suggest streamlining improvements. Examples: Anyone who works with the public directly, have a screenshot taken of their screen every 15 minutes, randomly during that timeframe. If it's not focused on work, instead playing solitaire or facebook, and there are people waiting for service, that person gets one warning. If there is a second incident, then they are on the next round of workforce reduction. That makes sure the dead weight is what is removed. Managers that have the largest number of direct reports caught in such a fashion are also removed. Watch for average wait times, and average visit times at the window. Try to find ways to streamline things so that these are naturally lowered, not by badgering the employees for trying to help too much. Figure out where they're wasting their time. In a lot of cases, the employees themselves will tell you. "Well, my computer locks up for 30 minutes a day running this damn virus scan at 2PM, and it slows everything down to be unusable!" Solution: reschedule virus scan for 2 AM, and remotely configure the machine to boot at 1:45 AM for the virus scan, updates, and then shut down upon completion, as long as completion time is before 7 AM.

They are steps that almost every major business has had to take during the recession, but the government is too big to fail. Streamline it. Make it more efficient. Cut the fat, and the people just holding jobs to collect a paycheck without actually working first.

Re:the bizarre part to this (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#42978729)

They make sure that it's the public rather than the department itself feeling necessity's sharp pinch.

All that is required to counteract this tactic is to anticipate it and be willing to fire bureaucrats. How does this sound:

Year 1: Budget cut is announced, director of agency embarks on campaign of collective punishment against the public. There is public outcry.

Year 2: Congress refuses to restore budget to pre-cut levels. Director continues his punitive war on productivity instead of cleaning house.

Year 3: President fires director for poor performance. New director appointed with mandate to improve service within existing budget constraints.

Year 4: If public outcry less than Year 1's level, continue business as usual. Else, go to Year 3.

I'm just saying it's possible to do it this way, not that it's likely.

still spending 2 1/2 times more than Clinton (2)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#42978399)

And, even with sequestration, Washington would still be spending over TWICE as much as they did during the Clinton administration. Sequestration is means "cutting" about 4% from the planned budget. (While still spending more than last year.)

It's widely believed that Clinton-style budgets were good. If you believe that, you should ask for sequestration times fifteen, cutting the projected budget by 60% to get back to Clinton-like spending.

Re:the bizarre part to this (1, Insightful)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about a year ago | (#42977805)

It's worth noting that all this discomfort only results in a drop of $85 billion.

As someone else said in this thread:

It is a scam.
They make sure the thing people care about get cut first.
The things that really should be cut never get touched.
We all get cowed into giving them more and more money.
See how much of an automatic cut your senators pay gets.
No, wait they still get an automatic raise

It's structured for the very purpose of making 'budget cuts' seem like a waste of time. You'll never get to the creamy center because there's so much hard, baked on crud you've got to scrape off first - like a boiled lobster which is covered in coral growth.

This is why we'll never see a de-funding of things like the IRS, anything else related to core government operations, or "governing body" luxuries. Why do we not talk about cutting money from Health and Human Services? Why do we not talk about defunding the Social Security Administration (even though the bulk of the funding to the SSA doesn't even make it to recipients of SS?) Government pensions are by far the biggest money soak - but of course, these will never be touched. God help our children and their children (due to the drastic increase in size/number of government employees in the past 4 years, there'll be a lot more people waiting in line for their pensions and fewer people to fill 'em).

There's a lot of talk about the military, but the military and all DoD related spending isn't even half what these two are combined, and we've got precious little to show for it (and seemingly less year by year, as defense spending remains historically consistently flat, but shrinking slightly (since WWII).

Re:the bizarre part to this (2)

bogjobber (880402) | about a year ago | (#42978397)

There's a lot of talk about the military, but the military and all DoD related spending isn't even half what these two are combined, and we've got precious little to show for it (and seemingly less year by year, as defense spending remains historically consistently flat, but shrinking slightly (since WWII).

How do you figure? Military spending was less than $300 billion in 2000 and in the proposed 2013 budget is $672 billion. It's shrunk slightly since last year, but certainly not on a downward trend over the last decade. Or three. Or five.

Re:the bizarre part to this (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year ago | (#42978609)

By law, the cuts must be equally applied to each program, project, and activity within an account, thereby not allowing agencies to use their discretion.

You seem to be implicitly assuming that there is XY% of each program within every agency that can be trivially cut.
You would be the hero of Washington if you could write down a list of all the people that can be fired without reducing each program's ability to meet its goals.

This is why we'll never see a de-funding of things like the IRS, anything else related to core government operations, or "governing body" luxuries. Why do we not talk about cutting money from Health and Human Services? Why do we not talk about defunding the Social Security Administration (even though the bulk of the funding to the SSA doesn't even make it to recipients of SS?)

Holy fucking shit. Who the hell defunds the IRS?
Do you have another suggestion on how the government should be run? Bakesales and PBS funding drives?
The IRS is by far the most efficient government agency for dollars spent vs dollars collected.

And pray tell, why does one defund the Social Security Trust Fund?
The trust fund that gets all its money from the social security payroll tax and not from anything else?
Or are we just ignoring the historical events that led to the creation of the Social Security Administration?

God help our children and their children (due to the drastic increase in size/number of government employees in the past 4 years, there'll be a lot more people waiting in line for their pensions and fewer people to fill 'em).

Drastic increase? [Citation Needed]

(Spoiler Alert: There has been no drastic increase)
You really need to join us in the fact based world.
The only "hard, baked on crud" you need to deal with are the layers of ideology clouding your vision.

Re:the bizarre part to this (1)

fearofcarpet (654438) | about a year ago | (#42978025)

Still, looking at the list, there's a number of worthy budget cuts, such as the oversized federal law enforcement, small business loans, and various "government service" rent seeking. And one really has a hard time arguing against a 13% cut back in defense spending.

Except that cutting spending now is like applying leeches to a sick patient. You cut spending when the economy is healthy to promote action by the private sector. You increase spending when the economy is unhealthy to backstop the potential for long term unemployment, which can ruin entire generations. An across-the-board spending cut to almost any government agency will do far more harm than good, but research--because it draws so heavily on international talent--is the most vulnerable.

After nearly a decade of back-door budget cuts to basic research funding during the Bush years, in 2007-2008 thousands of people were left stranded with years of education and training only to find academic positions evaporating as the housing crisis froze the funding for positions that were already being advertised for. In subsequent years positions that would normally receive on the order of a dozen applications were receiving hundreds. There was a little bubble with the stimulus, and then right back to strangling NSF, NIH, etc.

That kind of uncertainty and hostility from Congress drives talent away from the US; Europe and Asia are still dumping money into research like crazy. Europeans and Asians used to compete to come to the US, hoping to land a position in the land of opportunity. Increasingly, they come for a degree or a postdoc and then head home for a better position and stable funding in a first-world country with modern infrastructure.

Sure, it's only $85 billion, which is a rounding error in the total budget, but the force-multiplication of the way the sequester is applied will harm the US in the long term. And what is Washington concerned with? Finger-pointing, because carpet-bombing swing states with ads about whose fault the sequester was in the next election cycle is clearly more important to them than solving actual problems.

Re:the bizarre part to this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978155)

applying leaches to this bloated patient might work pretty well

Re:the bizarre part to this (0)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#42978235)

Except that cutting spending now is like applying leeches to a sick patient. You cut spending when the economy is healthy to promote action by the private sector. You increase spending when the economy is unhealthy to backstop the potential for long term unemployment, which can ruin entire generations. An across-the-board spending cut to almost any government agency will do far more harm than good, but research--because it draws so heavily on international talent--is the most vulnerable.

Ignoring that the leech trick actually does work under certain circumstances, it's worth noting here that the economy probably has the potential to do better than it currently is even under the current legal and political environment, but a lot of what's holding it back is precisely the sort of thing that we're proposing to cut.

Maybe cutting welfare for scientists isn't the best choice for first round budget trimming, but that budget does have to go down at some point. Else, you get in the situation where no one will lend money to the US government at nice rates and the science stopped being funded at that point.

Re:the bizarre part to this (5, Informative)

fearofcarpet (654438) | about a year ago | (#42978405)

Maybe cutting welfare for scientists isn't the best choice for first round budget trimming, but that budget does have to go down at some point.

Welfare? Are you high? Investments in research consistently yield the highest returns of any form of investment because they generate the technology and IP that drives the entire modern economy, including keeping people healthy and living longer. Why do you think the DoD invests so much in research? It's because it produces technology that directly benefits every aspect of the military. Besides, welfare implies a handout in place of money that would otherwise be earned; i) scientists don't pocket that money, they use it to hire people (i.e., to "create jobs") and to purchase necessary equipment/infrastructure--it is definition of stimulative and ii) where else are you supposed to get $1 million to do fundamental research? Private companies and philanthropic organizations (and Defense) fund specific research goals that are near to technological application, not the zillions of person-hours of basic research on which they were built.

If there is anything that a sane, rational government should spend money on, it is scientific research. And this isn't "the first round" of cuts for science, which have been under assault by Congress for years, but flies under the radar because ordinary people can't be bothered to see the connection between the plummeting quality and quantity of STEM in the US and research funding.

Not to mention that the entire annual budget for the NSF is ~$8 billion, which is about how much money was just up and lost, in cash, in Iraq. The Pentagon probably blows $8 billion on toilet paper in a year.

System working as intended (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977691)

The US has got 425 dollar billionaires, 34% of the world's total.

Relax, America is still number 1 where it counts.

It's a scam. (4, Insightful)

Beer_Smurf (700116) | about a year ago | (#42977715)

It is a scam.
They make sure the thing people care about get cut first.
The things that really should be cut never get touched.
We all get cowed into giving them more and more money.
See how much of an automatic cut your senators pay gets.
No, wait they still get an automatic raise
Makes me crazy.

Re:It's a scam. (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978099)

Nothing is getting cut. Period.

In all cases, they're getting more money than they got last year. Except that instead of an 8% increase, they're getting a 6% increase. And that's what the socialist in the White House is calling a "cut".

TSA/HL (3, Interesting)

Loki_666 (824073) | about a year ago | (#42977731)

So when do they disband the TSA and Fatherland^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Homeland security?

Standard threat to core services (1)

AlienSexist (686923) | about a year ago | (#42977747)

Notice how whenever there is a push to raise taxes, or pass some budget, how the people are always threatened with sacrifices to core services. Airport security, food safety, firefighter equipment, books for school children and so on. Never are absurd government programs in any such danger. They always grab you by the balls and squeeze. Pay up or else.

Re:Standard threat to core services (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977787)

Notice how whenever there is a push to raise taxes, or pass some budget, how the people are always threatened with sacrifices to core services. Airport security, food safety, firefighter equipment, books for school children and so on. Never are absurd government programs in any such danger. They always grab you by the balls and squeeze. Pay up or else.

It must be a conspiracy. To, um, keep all those absurd government programs we hear about. You know, the ones that take up so much of the budget. Like, well, hmm, you know what I mean....

Great Time For Other Countries (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about a year ago | (#42977761)

There are going to be a lot of defense contractors being laid off. Great time for China and other countries to go on a hiring spree! These are the guys insuring America's technological superiority in that segment, and I'm sure a lot of them would jump at an opportunity to continue feeding their families!

Re:Great Time For Other Countries (1)

gatkinso (15975) | about a year ago | (#42978137)

More likely we just ship the current Chinese et al H1B holders home.

It's a 3% cut (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977779)

Buy fewer office supplies and move on with your life.

How were all these things paid for? (5, Informative)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#42977831)

Just a few years ago, the budget was 2/3 of what it is now, so how were food inspections paid for then?

Most people don't realize that this big deficit spending problem started when the $787B "one time stimulus" became part of the baseline budget and was re-spent (and then some) year after year after year on the biggest government expansion ever seen on this Earth. That $787B is STILL being spent over and over again.

Bond Bubble Ben is still printing Bernanke Bucks at a rate of about $1T/year as well, because the FED is the only entity willing to buy new US debt anymore.

When are Americans going to wake up and realize that you can't spend money you don't have on things you neither want nor need and expect to come out ahead at the end of the day?

I guess "as long as I'm getting mine" is the new American Dream.

Here are some gross, as in disgusting, numbers for US Government Spending:

2006: 2655.1B
2007: 2728.7B
2008: 2982.5B
2009: 3517.7B
2010: 3456.2B
2011: 3598.1B

2001: 1862.8B

If you take the 2001 spending figure and adjust it for inflation, it is 2411B, so in 2011 dollars we're spending 1186B more than we were in 2001.

1.2T in government growth, people. That's 49%. And that's just government growth at the federal level. Government is taking fully 50% more money from us (and our kids, and their kids, and probably also their kids after that) than they were 10 years ago.

Sources:

http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/HistoricalBudgetData.xls [cbo.gov]

ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/cpi/cpiai.txt [bls.gov]

Re:How were all these things paid for? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977947)

Now be intellectually honest and admit a bunch of that money increase is simply that black spending is now not removed from the books like it was in Bush' time. Once you add black spending in, the amount spent as a % of GDP has been dropping.

War is part of Obama's Baseline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978737)

Because war really is part of Obama's baseline. This, in itself, should scare the shit out of you.

Re:How were all these things paid for? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978141)

First of all, as the sibling notes, those budget numbers don't include Bush's war budgets, which were designated as a "supplemental" budget. Bush's budgets were much higher than published. And 2001 was still at the height of the dot-com bubble, when the economy was very strong.

And the economy is still relatively weak. Ask most economists; during a recession, do you cut spending, or increase spending to stimulate the economy? Most would agree that deficit spending is necessary to prevent a bigger crash.

Re:How were all these things paid for? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978461)

"Most would agree that deficit spending is necessary"

What complete and utter bullshit.

First of all who gives a shit what any economist says? This is proof of nothing whatsoever except that some fuckhead says something stupid.

And if you have never heard the word bias before you have no business watching state run media and listening the THEIR FUCKING HAND PICKED ECONOMISTS. Fox meet hen house.

You people are so fucking gullible.

Re:How were all these things paid for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978277)

Debt, debt, debt, debt. The same way everything else is getting paid for. We haven't learned a thing from the dozens of market crashes, debt related problems, 'bond issues', pump-and-dump schemes, etc, etc. NONE of what any government doing at the moment is going to make the slightest difference and anyone who can count can tell you that.

Re:How were all these things paid for? (1)

davide marney (231845) | about a year ago | (#42978453)

"How could I be overdrawn? I still have checks in my checkbook!"
"How could we still be in a recession? We're still stimulating it!"

very misleading. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42977853)

Only 22 billion in cuts. Even if people get 'furloughed' for while, if they are essential they are still required to come into work (without pay). But don't you worry, because they have always gotten their backpay when the checks start rolling out again.

This is only more of the OH SH!T YOU'RE ALL GOING TO DIE IN A FIRE BECAUSE OF SEQUESTERING bullsh!t rhetoric. It's only 22 billion dollars and that's chump change compared to how much they waste a year.

Stop spending money you don't have, stop printing money, and tighten your belt. Things would improve if President Obama would stop acting like it's his sweet sixteen party and he's got daddy's credit card.

Lame-ass politics stories (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#42977905)

I never thought I would be sorry to see CmdrTaco go, but these sorts of non-nerds stories are here all the time now. Come ON, the federal budget? Gahhh...

Re:Lame-ass politics stories (2)

jbeaupre (752124) | about a year ago | (#42977977)

Yeah, just another Goth article about cutting.

Re:Lame-ass politics stories (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978531)

It may not be something you think about every day and care to read about; but this is certainly stuff that matters to you personally and to your family and others you care for, believe it.

I'm curious, do you know who Cloward and Piven are? Have a look and understand that Obama was at Columbia at the same time, this is not a theory that will be news to him. Is this his plan? I can't answer that.

But if it looks like shit, smells like shit, feels like shit, tastes like shit, it's hard to say it's ice cream.

Re:Lame-ass politics stories (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year ago | (#42978741)

Because nerds are obviously immune to political developments, such as reduced funds available for research, or taxes changing, or laws affecting freedom of speech, privacy, or copyright/patents. You're right, all of these politics stories are so non-nerdy.

i for one welcome the sequestration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978019)

my only wish is that it happened a decade ago

there are no cuts (1)

dabridgham (814799) | about a year ago | (#42978087)

The things is, as far as I can tell there are no actual cuts in spending. It's simply that they're going to get a 5% increase in spending instead of an 8% increase and they're calling that a 3% cut and claiming the sky will fall. It shouldn't surprise me that we fall for this but it does.

Re:there are no cuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978363)

Seems like a good number of people on /. realize this. Now if only our president did. I want a reporter to ask Carney "Isn't it true that sequestration is only decreasing how much the budget will go -up- year?"

It's like somebody finding out their pay raise isn't going to be as big as they thought and having to give up buying a new boat. Whoop-de-do.

Re:there are no cuts (1)

night_flyer (453866) | about a year ago | (#42978969)

He understands it just fine, he's using scare tactics to make political hay

Well I guess the H1B visa holders can go home (1)

gatkinso (15975) | about a year ago | (#42978127)

Sounds like plenty of American engineers will be looking for work.

Good riddance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978143)

I for one look forward to all the panicky idiots finally seeing how little we need all the worthless crap they waste our money on.

Full of it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978169)

They're full of it, the sky is going to fall, babies will die, heaven won't accept anymore souls, hell is frozen over, etc, etc........ They have a 14 trillion dollar faux budget (since they haven't actually budgeted jack shit in five years now!) and 84 billion is a drop in the bucket of ADDED money since the work on baseline budgeting which works based on projected growth of everything in the government. The federal government is a parasitic tumor on all of our backs that needs to be cut off. /rant

Research is a stupid place to cut money (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year ago | (#42978251)

The economic payout of federal research investment averages around 8:1 in terms of job creation, new revenue, trade, etc. Even research that doesn't lead to new therapeutic modalities still puts people to work and can aid in other research endeavors. There are places in the federal budget with poor payout that deserve to be explored for savings, but research is not one.

Re:Research is a stupid place to cut money (1)

gatkinso (15975) | about a year ago | (#42978261)

Well, had you been keeping up with events, you would know that the cuts are basically across the board, not just focused on R&D.

The entire concept was a blunt instrument that was meant to be too draconian and indiscriminate to even consider going into effect. Well, we see how that worked.

Re:Research is a stupid place to cut money (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a year ago | (#42978595)

Well, had you been keeping up with events, you would know that the cuts are basically across the board, not just focused on R&D.

I am well aware of that. However this summary is talking about how the budget sequestration will affect research agencies, so I wanted to point out what an epically stupid idea it is to cut research funding at any point. A few things are distinct to the research funding agencies that cannot be said about other federal agencies:

  • Research agencies have not had a budgetary increase that even met the rate of inflation for several years
  • Research dollars directly create jobs and save lives
  • As mentioned before, the ROI in purely dollars-for-dollars from research funding far exceeds that of any other section of the federal budget

In other words, cutting the research budget does not help anyone. It puts more people on unemployment, sends more research to foreign countries, and slows manufacturing development as well. If we truly want to improve the federal budget situation we should be increasing, not decreasing, the research budgets.

Re:Research is a stupid place to cut money (1)

Biosci777 (2785273) | about a year ago | (#42978663)

When I left my job at a university for one in the federal government doing research, my pay went up a little, but money for expenditures jumped 200%. We've had to cut back a little in the last couple of years and this year will be no different, but it only means we can't be as extravagant in which reagents we purchase. There are no furloughs expected in our research division. As others have said, this is all about using fear to manipulate the populace.

These aren't spending cuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978257)

They're decreases in how much spending will go -up-.

Not $85 billion (5, Informative)

blogagog (1223986) | about a year ago | (#42978259)

The automatic sequestration will only remove $44 billion from this year's budget. Bigger cuts will occur in later years. But you should know that the government will still spend more this year than last, despite the sequestration. It's just that the increase won't be as much. The crying of poverty is just political BS.

Re:Not $85 billion (2)

davide marney (231845) | about a year ago | (#42978419)

Mod parent up. In Washington-speak, a "catastrophic" budget cut means a cut to the rate of increase. The rollback of the $44B of planned increased spending in this year's budget is just slightly over 1% of the total. Heck, every wage-earner in the country just had their taxes increase by double that amount with the ending of the payroll tax holiday, so cry me a river. I have zero sympathy.

Phony spending cut, phony panic (3, Insightful)

Freddybear (1805256) | about a year ago | (#42978287)

They aren't really cutting spending. Spending will still increase, just not as much as they wanted. And for that we get to listen to the Ruling Class whine and moan and act all theatrical about what a terrible panic will ensue because they can't overspend as much as they want.
What a load of bullshit.
And what a load of idiots we are when we let them get away with it. Any program manager who cuts anything critical instead of his own paycheck should be fired immediatly without recourse. And any politician who plays the false panic card during the next few months should get a nice present come next primary season - a challenger who won't sit and take all the bullshit that'll get thrown around.

On the positive side (1)

gatkinso (15975) | about a year ago | (#42978361)

Folks aren't out rioting in the streets over these cuts like they did in Athens, Madrid, London, Paris....

coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978365)

I'm sure the TSA wont be affected -- think of the children!

Can't cut $41B out of a $3.5T budget? (1)

schwit1 (797399) | about a year ago | (#42978547)

If the elected officials can't do this then they should resign.

Rightfully killing the F35 would fix all the DODs obligations. Raising the retirement age would fix other budget issues.

PREDICTION (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42978573)

For those of you who are "awake".

We can't do anything about the economic collapse; we know that will happen no matter what. But we also know the New World Order is attempting to make it happen a little earlier, so they have some control and can maximize their wealth from the people.

Those of us that are awake, have been working hard to prevent a world war, and to prevent a civil war, and at this point, many believe only one of them can be avoided. Either way, if we have had a good push with our efforts, then Congress will push back the sequester several months, and if we have not done a very good job, then it will hit and activate.

If you follow the mainstream media, it would indicate that gun control will not pass because us pro-gun people have "too much power". All indications are it is going to pass. It will be illegal, but it will pass.

Cry me a river (0)

Vrtigo1 (1303147) | about a year ago | (#42978589)

The article (and libs in general) like to point out all the scary stuff that will lose funding in the hope that they can scare the public. What they don't tell you is that the liberals in congress have rejected virtually all of the proposals to cut spending from anywhere. Even if we're just talking about limiting the growth of programs - i.e. keep spending at the current level instead of increasing it, they start going batshit crazy.

It's time to face reality - spending more than you bring in isn't sustainable. No matter how you skin that cat, it just isn't going to work. That's why we've got a 16 TRILLION plus dollar deficit.

The liberal's answer to this is to raise taxes on the rich. I don't fall into that category, but I can tell you if I did, I wouldn't be too happy about paying a larger share of taxes on my income to pull the weight of everyone else. There are a great many folks in America that basically pay no federal income tax because they are low income. So what Obama and the liberals in congress are really saying is it's ok not to go to college and get a decent job because they won't tax you if you can't afford to be taxed, or if you have kids even though you can't afford to take care of them. They've basically removed a reason for people to aspire to educate themselves and get a good job, because if you're poor they're not going to tax you, and if you do get a good job, say you start a company and grow it, they've removed the inventive for you to make more money because they're just going to take more money away from you as you bring more money in.

How about we tax payers... (1)

3seas (184403) | about a year ago | (#42978745)

Each and everyone of us telling our employees how they are to use our taxes!?
They are responsible to infoprming us taxpayers what they need funding for and we each decide where our taxes are used. This means genuine government transparancy.

This will solve government failure in budgeting and accounting, as the people will be setting the budget and the tax processors can allocate as each of us say, for accounting purposes.

The constraint of where we the people can say to use our taxes is that it must be for the generation of team work benefits we the people can share in, unl;ike the full benefits now claimed by the politicians who think "we the people" is just them.

This also helps deal with lying politicians who say what they will to get our vote but then flip flop while somehow claiming they represent us still.
We the people are the paying boss.

Look up the history of when taxes begain and understand the Declaration of Independence clairity of our rights and duty to put off bad government and replace it with what will do what the founders intended, look after our future security and this means more than warfarem but financial etc...

The eaisest transition to do this is we the people say where our taxes are to be used. There is nothing in law that violates our constitutional rights and duty for use to have the genuine right to do this.

For if you do not siupport this honesty, then you are one to support rigged elections, You either trust the people, or you don't. And if you don't then I suggest the next time you go to the store, just give teh cashier your money and let them decide what you get in return... for is not that the way things are going with your taxes?

The real figure is now $44B (2)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about a year ago | (#42978753)

per the most recent CBO estimates. The total budget is $4T. Anybody who is crying tears over any part of the federal government losing a whopping 1% of its budget really needs to re-examine where they are coming from. How many individuals and families deal with far larger swings in income on a weekly basis? How many people have had to abruptly make swift changes to their personal outlays because they or another family member has lost a job? Become ill?

Worse still, are these even real cuts? Or are they just slowing the rate of increase in the growth of spending?

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