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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Sequestration (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Sequestration
Jeff C.
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I'm surprised no one is talking about this on these boards, given that it's such a huge deal right now.

From what I understand (and I will admit my ignorance on these things), Congress is basically failing to come to an agreement on the budget, which has in turn caused a policy (Sequestration) to take effect. Sequestration essentially forces cuts from various government programs, including the military and other major departments, for as long as it takes them to figure something out. This has the potential to screw over a great many folks in various branches and departments.

I'm in the military (along with a few others on these boards), so this whole deal has actually directly affected me.

To begin with, about 9% of our total funding has been taken away (across all branches). On top of that, our Tuition Assistance program is about to get taken away (the Marines' TA has already been cut as of yesterday), which means no more free education for active duty military members. That's a huge deal, because it's one of the main incentives to sign up. Sure, you still get your GI Bill, but there's a cap on that thing (and you can't use it until you've been in for at least three years), whereas the TA program doesn't have one (you can only use TA while you are in the military). I'm halfway through a Master's degree, which essentially means I won't be able to afford to go to school anymore.

So I'm wondering, does anyone else know anything else about what is going on? We only just heard about some of these cuts today. I'd like to know exactly what is going on so that I can better plan for my future. The plans I have hing on the completion of my degree, so I'm fairly nervous that I may have to dip into my GI Bill (which I was hoping to use for a PhD at some point), but I'll just have to deal with it if I do.

Anyway, is this sequestration thing directly affecting any of you? I suppose it affects all of us, but some people are bound to feel the effects more than others.

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TomDavidson
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I'm mainly disgusted with Congress right now, but luckily there aren't any direct impacts on my family.
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Kwea
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Get out of the service, and hope they don't call you back, or tell you you are "stop lossed" or "mission critical".

Seriously. I am ex-Army, my whole family was military for every branch but the Coast Guard, and I wouldn't advise it to anyone at this point.

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BlackBlade
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Jeff: Sequestering was years in the making, and honestly I think it's been good to see just how dysfunctional Congress can be now. They couldn't even get out of a crisis of their own making.

I am not directly affected, but I'm going to graduate school, and the cost of subsidizing those loans so I don't pay interest until graduation has been thrown under the bus along with some other federal spending bills.

The Congress will have to do something about spending/taxes. It's best to just sit back until they actually stop playing with their food and actually eat it.

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Stephan
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We need a movement called "No Incumbents 2014" where everyone just votes against those currently in power, regardless of party. That could put a little scare into Congress.
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TomDavidson
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As long as I don't have to vote against Tammy Baldwin, I'm all for it.
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Stephan
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There we go.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/No-Incumbents-2014/441419689268841

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Darth_Mauve
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To save money on Secret Service budget they cut out White House Tours.

The White House is closed and Quantanamo is still open. Its official. The Terrorists have won.

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Jeff C.
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You have to wonder what it all comes down to. Years from now, I wonder if it will be possible to pinpoint the exact moment when everything took a sharp decline, culminating (for now) in what we're calling this sequestration. I'd be curious to see who gets the blunt of the blame in the history books.
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Parkour
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I think we'll survive sequestration.

I look forward to a bunch of economic problems we can blame on republican obstructionism, though. Just to further drill the point home that american conservatism deserves its self-imposed terminal state.

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Stephan
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quote:
Originally posted by Jeff C.:
You have to wonder what it all comes down to. Years from now, I wonder if it will be possible to pinpoint the exact moment when everything took a sharp decline, culminating (for now) in what we're calling this sequestration. I'd be curious to see who gets the blunt of the blame in the history books.

Middle school textbooks always seem to paint presidents in a positive light. I guess it depends on which history books.
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Jeff C.
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quote:
Originally posted by Parkour:
I think we'll survive sequestration.

I look forward to a bunch of economic problems we can blame on republican obstructionism, though. Just to further drill the point home that american conservatism deserves its self-imposed terminal state.

I'm sure we'll survive it, but it's bound to go down in history as a major blunder, nonetheless. Someone will get blamed.
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Jake
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My wife's probably going to be taking a 20% pay cut for the year as a result of the sequestration.
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kmbboots
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It is messing with the funding of some very useful research here at the university.
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Lyrhawn
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I've seen some reports that say it will likely stay, but I think that all depends on whether or not Obama can forge a deal on entitlements. Trying to solve the problem haggling over discretionary spending is silly. But they're actually talking about real long term drivers of our debt in Medicare and Medicaid. If they can reform Medicaid, and make Social Security solvent through its own dedicated tax structure, a lot of these other problems will solve themselves.
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BlackBlade
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I actually would be sad if Elizabeth Warren were swept up in the wave of incumbent exiling. Also I don't actually know who would fill the power vacuum. It would be so huge all sorts of random folks would be swept in.
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Lyrhawn
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I don't see the point in throwing out people who just got there, but I'd be okay with eliminating everyone who has been in the Senate for two terms or more, and in the House who has been there for five terms or more.

It would eliminate a lot of the entrenched attitudes that have set in over the past decade, and bring in some much needed fresh perspectives.

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Samprimary
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I haven't said much about it because there's nothing to say! It is a continuation of EVERYTHING I have ever said about the GOP and congressional brokenness.

Congress is completely broken. It's less popular than communism or rodents. Our minority party has abused its brokenness to drag the country down with them so that they can stand a chance in upcoming elections. It won't really work, and their accelerating sociodemographic demise will continue.

Good riddance. It'll be tough until then. It's their fault, they'll pretend it's not, or make equivalence arguments, and the world will turn.

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Geraine
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quote:
Originally posted by Parkour:
I think we'll survive sequestration.

I look forward to a bunch of economic problems we can blame on republican obstructionism, though. Just to further drill the point home that american conservatism deserves its self-imposed terminal state.

Because this wasn't President Obama's idea in the first place right? The White House came up with it, then blamed it on Congress, then finally came out last week and admitted that it was them.

Obama even said he would VETO any attempt to get rid of the automatic cuts. The president then went out said the sequestration was bad because it let criminals out on the streets. Except he signed the damn bill.

To call these spending "cuts" is completely wrong as well. There is no money being taken away at all. This is simply a reduction in spending increases. The amount is also pretty insignificant and could be found elsewhere. There is still hundreds of billions of the stimulus that never got spent. There was over $100 billion in money that has just gone "missing" in 2011 due to government not paying attention to where it is going. Good government employees get furloughed instead of laying off those that are unneeded or not doing a good job.

Now when asked a question of how best to deal with the sequestration, the White House tells the Agriculture department "“However you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.”

Chicago style politics at its finest!

Sure, a $160 billion tax increase won't do any harm, but $85 billion is going to cause us to slip into a recession.

Again, the sequestration is not taking money away from anyone, it is reducing the INCREASE they would receive.

Then again, we probably wouldn't have this problem if we could just get a budget. It has been almost 4 years since we have had one of those, and you can blame Reid for that.

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Lyrhawn
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Who cares whose idea it was in the first place? Does that fact that it came from the White House originally someone supersede the fact that CONGRESS, including the GOP, actually had to vote on and approve it before it could be made into law?

He didn't say he would veto ANY attempt to get rid of the cuts, I think he specifically said he would veto a bill that would give him the power to choose how to apply them, which I don't think would have made it to him anyway because that's supposed to be what Congress, not the President, does.

There aren't hundreds of billions in ARRA funds that were never spent, there was also not $100 billion in missing funds. That's factually untrue. ARRA has been hailed as one of the most efficient, least corrupt expenditures of federal funds in history.

Regardless, you're being silly. While it's stopping the regular increase in funds that tends to come over time, it is in fact taking money away from hundreds of programs. Half the sequester is military and the other half is mainly non-defense discretionary spending, which means non-defense, non-entitlement spending, which is roughly half a trillion dollars. So we're talking about cutting roughly 10% of the non-defense discretionary spending budget. That's real money. That budget does not increase by 10% a year, so of course it's cutting their funding. On the military you're right, cutting $45 billion a year probably won't result in an actual reduction, just a slowdown, but you'll never hear me complain when it comes to military spending cuts.

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Jeff C.
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What's funny about military spending cuts is that they aren't coming from the right places. Cutting our troops' benefits, rather than cutting the money we spend on frivolous things like 50 inch flatscreen TVs is just plain dumb (seriously, they had to spend some excess money last year and our building brought in a hundred of these things and put them all over the building. Half of them are never even turned on). The whole mentality of how this system operates is just...confusing.
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Lyrhawn
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That's a combination of Congressmen decided where the money goes, and generals who like shiny things.

Military spending is ridiculous. Not only is there too much of it, it often goes to the least appropriate places. But it's a monster. Trying to reform it is nearly impossible because of the demagoguery.

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BlackBlade
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Not to mention the military is also suffering from the same budget rules most of our government deals with. If you don't spend all your budget, for any reason, you lose it, and next year you get a reduced budget that's often too small. So the incentive is to find things to spend your money on.
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Lyrhawn
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Plus you've got politicians trying to guide our defense strategy via our budget rather than our budget being driven by strategy. Mitt Romney campaigned that as a principle of defense, we should arbitrarily peg defense spending at a certain percentage of GDP, which makes no sense. We don't need to build more destroyers just to meet a spending goal, we should figure out what we want to use the navy for, and then figure out whether or not the budget can support that. It's all just so ass-backwards.

It's one of the reasons I'm excited about Hagel. He actually wants to ask those kinds of questions, to drill into the question of whether or not our spending matches our goals. It's a question that's needed asking for decades.

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Dogbreath
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I'm in the military. Our TA got cut yesterday.

I spent almost all of the first 3 years of my career forward deployed, often sleeping outside in utterly miserable conditions, working 16 or 20 hour days, and on occasion risking my life, watching my personal and romantic relationships fall apart, and worst of all, as often as not without internet access. (in case you were all wondering why I sometimes disappear for 4 or 5 months at a time)

One of the big incentives for agreeing to sign up for this shit was knowing that at some point, I would be able to get free college.

This semester was the first one in 3 years that my responsibilities at work were light enough that I could start taking classes.

Until yesterday.

I'm not overly pleased with our Congress at the moment. I'm actually financially stable enough (nothing to spend my money on for 3 years...) where this won't really affect me or my lifestyle in any meaningful way. It's more of the thought (or lack thereof) that counts type of thing.

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BlackBlade
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I'm sorry Dogbreath. It really is a shame our government is this broken down.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Obama even said he would VETO any attempt to get rid of the automatic cuts.
As usual, I have to remind you that you are a patsy for sites that lie to you, and have fed you lies like this one.

quote:
To call these spending "cuts" is completely wrong as well. There is no money being taken away at all. This is simply a reduction in spending increases.
.....

.....yes, that's what .... all spending cuts are.

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Dogbreath
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Today I saw one of the reasons why our government is so outrageously in debt.

We needed a new toolkit for a system we use. (the old one had walked off in country somewhere) The price to order it through the MC-GCSS is $1,800. So I made a few calls, and went over to the Fiscal Chief with various price quotes and showed him that I could assemble a similar kit with identical functionality for $97.88 from Radio Shack and Lowes. A lot of the items were actually the *exact same thing* (like a screwdriver) but priced at $2 instead of $50.

You know what he said? He said the contract we have with the company that supplies us with these toolkits forbids us from purchasing or manufacturing our own.

So they bought the $1,800 toolkit.

I'll probably just use my Gerber if the thing ever breaks.

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Jeff C.
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Wow, Dogbreath, that's so stupid, but I actually know exactly what you are talking about. I work with computers all day and the other day I had to call and get a quote on some parts. The computers we recently purchased are priced at about 4 thousand dollars each. Now, I'd love to know exactly how a computer can cost that much, and yet it still isn't as good as the 1500 dollar one I have at home AND it still breaks all the time! It's so stupid.

And speaking of tools, we have tool kits too and it's the same deal. I'm not technically allowed to use my Leatherman on a computer system because it's not approved, even though it does the job just fine (no one in my shop ever actually uses the tool kits unless they are getting inspected), but we still have to have them.

It's ridiculous.

And Dogbreath, I'm sorry to hear your TA got cut yesterday. We still have ours for now. The Air Force will likely not get hit until last, but to hear that you guys have already been affected is very disheartening.

Another ironic thing that I didn't think about until today: did you know that in the Air Force, in order to reach the rank of E-7, you are expected to have your CCAF (it's an AA Degree, but you get it through the Air Force's college)? How are you supposed to do that if they get rid of your TA? The answer is, of course, to use your GI Bill, but what if you gave it to your kids or spouse?

The Government's inevitable answer: sucks to be you.

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Lyrhawn
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There needs to be a website somewhere, like a reddit for military people, where everyone just posts anecdote after anecdote like this of stupid crap the higher ups do that is both wasteful and inefficient. It'd create a huge database of ways to save money and streamline operations.

Then we need to get one of those petitions to the White House to read it.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Dogbreath:
You know what he said? He said the contract we have with the company that supplies us with these toolkits forbids us from purchasing or manufacturing our own.

So they bought the $1,800 toolkit.

Here's the sad part: guess who's responsible for most of these contracts :/
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James Tiberius Kirk
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quote:
Originally posted by Geraine:
quote:
Originally posted by Parkour:
I think we'll survive sequestration.

I look forward to a bunch of economic problems we can blame on republican obstructionism, though. Just to further drill the point home that american conservatism deserves its self-imposed terminal state.

Because this wasn't President Obama's idea in the first place right? The White House came up with it, then blamed it on Congress, then finally came out last week and admitted that it was them.

It's rather disingenuous to claim that this was "Obama's idea" and leave it at that. The sequester was the ransom the White House coughed up when the GOP demanded $1.2 trillion in savings as a condition for the debt ceiling hike - and then took revenue off the table. "Leverage," remember?

We would not be here if that little charade hadn't happened back in the summer of 2011. Blaming the sequester on Obama after the GOP spent the last two years clamoring for cuts (any cuts, anywhere) is an ... interesting strategy, to say the least.

[ March 09, 2013, 01:48 PM: Message edited by: James Tiberius Kirk ]

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Rakeesh
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Geraine,

quote:
Again, the sequestration is not taking money away from anyone, it is reducing the INCREASE they would receive.
Man, Geraine, I know you're more conservative than I am so it's to be expected we'll disagree on some things, but I don't think I recall you aping the Fox News Take on Politics quite so much.

Not taking money from anyone? We've got a steadily growing population and economy, even in tougher times. Our needs aren't static. If your budget for the care and upkeep of your family remained the same when your, say, three kids were all under little and your spouse and you were healthy and young as it did in ten years when they were all teenagers and back problems started showing up, would you say 'oh, we don't need to spend more, the budget should be unchanged!' Of course not.

But I suppose to examine the matter too deeply runs afoul of the conservative notion that any government or growth in government (even if it's not, really) is bad, and the solution to all problems is to kill it.

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Kwea
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Geraine, that wasn't even more disingenuous than normal. Ever think of running for office?
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James Tiberius Kirk
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
But I suppose to examine the matter too deeply runs afoul of the conservative notion that any government or growth in government (even if it's not, really) is bad, and the solution to all problems is to kill it.

That's the most remarkable thing about this, IMHO. Budget cuts are just about the only thing holding the House GOP together at this point - but the cuts are so deeply unpopular that they're trying to blame the White House for the consequences of their own platform.
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Samprimary
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Yeah I can't wait to hop on the Geraine dogpile in a way but, like, take my question in a vacuum, as though it were the only response you had gotten: Geraine, are you ever sort of worried that it seems like you always essentially fall for clear conservative propaganda?
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Swampjedi
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AF GS civilian here. That 20% pay cut is going to sting. My family will be okay (two incomes, and my wife's is scalable easily), but I'm seriously concerned about the rest of the community. Most of the civilians here are blue collar aircraft maintainers who are accustomed to full time pay at the minimum, with up to 40 more hours overtime pay due to workload. Feel free to point out that the above scenario is indicative of a larger problem (both AF and personal), so that I can agree with you. :-)

My family is full of Fox News faithful, and even they are blaming the Republicans. That gives me a bit of hope.

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Jeff C.
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quote:
Originally posted by Swampjedi:
AF GS civilian here. That 20% pay cut is going to sting. My family will be okay (two incomes, and my wife's is scalable easily), but I'm seriously concerned about the rest of the community. Most of the civilians here are blue collar aircraft maintainers who are accustomed to full time pay at the minimum, with up to 40 more hours overtime pay due to workload. Feel free to point out that the above scenario is indicative of a larger problem (both AF and personal), so that I can agree with you. :-)

My family is full of Fox News faithful, and even they are blaming the Republicans. That gives me a bit of hope.

A relative of mine told me the other day that all of this is because Obama and the other Democrats are trying to destroy America so that they can rebuild it in a new Socialist empire.

Let the sheer insanity of that perspective sink in and then ask yourself why it is that Americans can't seem to get along.

The short answer is that both sides are convinced that the other is so concretely evil that they can't even humanize them anymore.

You know what the solution to all of this is, don't you? We need another villain to go after--something to unite us all so we stop looking in the shadows and turning on ourselves. We need another Hitler, Bin Laden, or Darth Vader.

Yes....we need to kill Hayden Christensen...

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Gilnar
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Lyrhawn, I'll agree with you that it's irrelevant now who first suggested the sequester.

But you're wrong about the President's position on the sequester cuts. The day after the "Supercommittee" failed to arrive at a solution, he had a press conference where he stated, "I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts,” adding “the only way to get rid of those cuts is to get Congress to come together and work on a deal.”

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/afontevecchia/2011/11/21/obama-i-will-veto-attempts-to-get-rid-of-automatic-spending-cuts/

Seems pretty clear to me. This was November 2011.

Also, for the record, it should be noted that the cuts are 1/2 defense, 1/2 domestic. Also note that the defense budget is not 1/2 of the overall federal budget. The sequester was designed to have a more significant impact on the military. I think both sides out-thought themselves on this. I'm sure everyone assumed some solution would be reached, so as not to impose these drastic cuts on the military. But this strategy did not work out for anyone involved.

The President also more recently threatened to veto any efforts by Congress to give him flexibility on how the cuts are implemented.

A fair question would be, why did he decline Congress giving him discretion to decide how the cuts should be implemented? If everyone is appalled at the "meat cleaver" approach to budgeting that this sequester represents, why would he as chief executive decline the power to decide how best to implement the cuts to make the impact as minimal as possible?

He certainly has not shied away from taking power from Congress in his 4.5 years in office. Could it be that he, too, is playing politics?

The bottom line for me is that the federal government is currently failing in its fundamental duty to the citizens. The entire lot of them seem more interested in playing politics and keeping their respective bases aroused, than they are in solving problems.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
A fair question would be, why did he decline Congress giving him discretion to decide how the cuts should be implemented?
Because it's a transparent attempt by Congress to say, "We didn't cut your program; the President cut your program!"
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TheGrimace
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on the topic of ridiculously overpriced military/government goods, I'd just like to weigh in as someone who works for a large company that does a fair amount of government contracting.

Unfortunately those costs are all about requirements, and drive us just as crazy as you (the end user). Inevitably that radio you're using has hundreds/thousands of pages of specifications which it has to meet.

Some of those specifications are valid and specific to the application (rad hardening, testing to temperature extremes etc...) and just add cost to the end unit even if most/all the parts are the same as the commercial variety.

A lot of those specifications are just paperwork-related, but make you do extra stuff. Maybe the lot of resistors used there has to go through additional screening, or be tracked separately because the govt wants to be able to know what radios or other stuff are implicated if one of those parts fails. This is true even if the end result uses all the same parts as the commercial unit.

A lot of those specifications are seemingly simple, but end up requiring a bunch of engineering time to explain how they're met. i.e. "This radio shall not explode when exposed to X, Y and Z." Maybe you actually test for that (more money) or maybe you just try to put together an explanation that plastic or aluminum or whatever doesn't spontaneously combust when it rains outside... you'd be surprised how something seemingly simple can turn into a very expensive dog and pony show depending on who you're trying to explain things to.

Finally there's a lot of over designing out there. Most likely that radio is specified to work in the antarctic, underwater, in direct sunlight in Iraq on the hottest day of the year etc... your radio shack unit will work just fine in normal circumstances which is fine 99% of the time, but won't work with 100% reliability in all situations that the government unit is intended to work in.

The West Wing episode with the shatter-proof ash tray from a naval vessel was a good example.

Now I'm not saying that we couldn't save a ton of money on most of this stuff, just that the extreme costs are due to something

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Bokonon
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quote:
Originally posted by Jeff C.:
You have to wonder what it all comes down to. Years from now, I wonder if it will be possible to pinpoint the exact moment when everything took a sharp decline, culminating (for now) in what we're calling this sequestration. I'd be curious to see who gets the blunt of the blame in the history books.

I think it's pretty clear the inflection point was the 1994 election.

If there is any justice, Republicans (and particularly House republicans plus the GWB administration) will receive the vast majority of the blame.

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Dogbreath
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Grimace: Do you work for Harris?
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scholarette
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I agree with Grimace on the hidden costs thing. We track and back up everything. Paperwork is a pain in the rear an doubles our workload but we can tell you anything and everything about any given item. Some I the stuff is ridiculously detailed but we have it all tracked. And fr every supply we use, we demand that they be able to trace it just as thoroughly as we do.
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TheGrimace
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Dogbreath, I do not, but I work for a similar company. To add on, while your radio might cost $1500 instead of the $50 you'd pay at Radio Shack, mine (procured for my company) probably still costs $500 due to similar (if less stringent) requirements.
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Dogbreath
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Honestly, radios are about the least expensive pieces of gear we use, and the most rugged. Almost anything that breaks on them (mostly the internal couplers on our HF radios) can be serviced in house, they can take a beating, and last practically forever. I have no complaints with Harris or any of our suppliers in that regard - their radios might cost $4,000-$20,000, but they last 30 years.

Most of the gear I'm talking about is in the $250,000-$1,800,000 range, is made specifically for our job field, and often is quite buggy and prone to breaking. I understand a lot of the cost has to due with covering startup costs - in a lot of cases, whole companies are created just to provide the government with a specific technology or piece of gear that that doesn't yet exist. A lot of the gear is stuff your average American doesn't know *can* exist, so I also understand the expense in hiring some pretty specialized engineers and scientists to R&D it. I have no qualms with that.

What I don't understand is - a screw is a screw. Aluminum casing is aluminum casing. A keyboard is a keyboard. There's no reason why a crappy Phillips head screwdriver should cost $50 or 3' of 20 gauge copper wire $149.95, or $85 for 10' of Cat5e. And worse, there should be no reason why we should be obligated to pay those outrageous amounts when we can supply those items organically - I know there's at least 1000' of shielded ethernet cable and a big bag of RJ-45 connectors lying in some forgotten corner of our comm shop, why can't I just take 5 minutes to cut and crimp it myself and save the taxpayer $85?

I can understand suppliers upping the prices for proprietary items (like Cisco's $800 Smart Serial cables), but if it's something that is not just similar, but *identical*, but 1/10th or 1/50th of the price, shouldn't now be the time to start employing those cost saving measures? I think it could save the DOD alone at least several billion dollars.

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Jeff C.
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Well Dogbreath, it is official. TA has now been cut from the Air Force as well as the Army and Marines. Why they haven't gone after the Navy is anyone's guess, but I'm sure it will happen soon.
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Geraine
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwea:
Geraine, that wasn't even more disingenuous than normal. Ever think of running for office?

Yeah, after reading it again it did seem over the top. I can only blame it on lack of sleep.....caused by staying up until the wee hours of the morning playing Fire Emblem on my 3DS XD.
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Geraine
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
Yeah I can't wait to hop on the Geraine dogpile in a way but, like, take my question in a vacuum, as though it were the only response you had gotten: Geraine, are you ever sort of worried that it seems like you always essentially fall for clear conservative propaganda?

And yet 90% of yours posts are the same with liberal propoganda. I guess we are both in deep. :/
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Orincoro
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HAH.

How much I would bet that Sam's reading materials are not only significantly broader than your own, but also several times higher in volume.

It's very sad, really. If you believe people who lie to you just because you want to believe what they say, there's nothing in the world to help you know what's true.

And that is the difference between you, and, well, I would say most, but many people.

[ March 13, 2013, 07:19 PM: Message edited by: Orincoro ]

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