Consumers Caught in Middle of Sequester Politics

Monday, 11 Mar 2013 09:28 AM

By John Morgan

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The Obama administration defended looming cutbacks of federal meat inspectors that could play havoc with the nation’s food chain, and long lines begin to form at some airports, as consumers braced for visible effects of sequestration that some lawmakers claim are politically exaggerated.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told lawmakers it could still be several months before meat and poultry inspectors are actually furloughed, but the agency is sending out notices to employees this week notifying them of the action, the Federal Times reported.

“No matter how you slice it, no matter how you dice it, there is nothing you can do without affecting frontline inspectors,” Vilsack told the House Agriculture Committee.

Forbes Columnist:
‘Who the Hell Cleared This?’

“This is not about creating grave concern among consumers. This is about being very truthful about the consequences of sequester, which is that it is going to disrupt production in these facilities.”

However, an email from a director of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to his staff “appeared to show the agency was failing to consider alternatives to minimize the effect of the sequester in order to justify the dire predictions from the Obama administration,” the Times stated.

Politico reported Republicans seized on the email as evidence the White House was doing its best to dramatize the effects of the sequester’s spending cuts, amounting to $85 billion in across the board reductions, but the Obama administration denied it.

“The Obama administration is doing everything they can to make sure their worst predictions come true and to maximize the pain of the sequester cuts for political gain,” Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., said. “President [Barack] Obama should stop protecting wasteful government spending.”

USA Today reported travelers entering the United States already are experiencing delays at large airports because of the spending cuts, and that the situation could get worse.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said delays at customs and security checkpoints would increase because of reduced overtime and a hiring freeze even before furloughs begin next month.

Napolitano said, “We will see these effects cascade over the next week,” USA Today reported. “I don’t mean to scare. I mean to inform.”

The News-Journal in Longview, Texas, said Napolitano sent a letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, warning of increased delays at the nation’s largest land port in Laredo, and reductions in Coast Guard protection off of the Texas coast.

A press spokesman for Perry responded, “Blind, across-the-board budget cuts at the expense of national security are not the answer to balancing the federal budget,” the News-Journal reported.

Napolitano’s letter to Perry was distributed to Texas news outlets by Democratic politicians, the News-Journal reported. The previous day, the governor had criticized the Obama administration for releasing thousands of undocumented immigrants from detention centers without advising states as to where or how many were released, the newspaper said.

Forbes Columnist: ‘Who the Hell Cleared This?’

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