Federal spending cuts will affect many
Some examples of automatic federal spending cuts that took effect Friday.
The Associated Press
Automatic spending cuts that took effect Friday are expected to touch a vast range of government services. Some examples:
One of the Navy’s premiere warships, the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, sits pier-side in Norfolk, Va., its deployment to the Persian Gulf delayed. The Navy also began plans to gradually shut down four of its air wings — 50 to 60 aircraft each and assigned to the carriers — and delay and cancel the deployments of several other ships.
Furlough notices will begin going out later this month to about 800,000 Department of Defense civilians, who will lose a day’s pay each week for more than five months. The Army will let go more than 3,000 temporary and contract employees, and beginning in April, it will cancel maintenance at depots, which will force 5,000 more layoffs.
The Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels will cancel air-show appearances.
Coast Guard rescue aircraft and cutters will fly and patrol for fewer hours. Emergencies will be a priority, and interdictions of illegal immigrants, drugs and illegal fishing could decline.
There could be an estimated 2,100 fewer food safety inspections.
Hospitals, doctors and other Medicare providers will see a 2 percent cut in government reimbursements because once the cutback takes effect, Medicare will reimburse them at 98 cents on the dollar. But they aren’t complaining, since the pain could be a lot worse if President Obama and congressional Republicans actually did reach a sweeping agreement to reduce federal deficits. Automatic cuts taking effect Friday would reduce Medicare spending by about $100 billion over a decade. But Obama had put on the table $400 billion in health-care cuts, mainly from Medicare. And Republicans wanted more.
On the other hand, Obama’s health-overhaul law is expected to roll out on time and largely unscathed by the cuts. Part of the reason is that the law’s major subsidies to help uninsured people buy private health coverage are structured as tax credits. So is the Affordable Care Act’s assistance for small businesses. Tax credits have traditionally been exempted from automatic cuts.
The nation’s busiest airports could be forced to close some of their runways, causing widespread flight delays and cancellations. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood predicts flights to cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco could have delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because fewer controllers will be on duty.
Though the spending cuts were scheduled to go into effect on Friday, furloughs of controllers won’t kick in until April.
The FAA is planning to eliminate midnight shifts for air traffic controllers at 60 airport towers, close more than 100 control towers at smaller airports and reduce preventive maintenance of equipment.
Visiting hours at all 398 national parks are likely to be cut, and sensitive areas would be blocked off to the public. Thousands of seasonal workers would not be hired. Visitors could encounter locked restrooms, fewer rangers and trash cans emptied less frequently.
More than half of the nation’s 2.1 million government employees may be required to take furloughs.
Some 70,000 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten Head Start would be cut from the program, and 14,000 teachers would lose their jobs. For students with special needs, the cuts would eliminate some 7,200 teachers and aides. The Education Department is also warning that the cuts will impact up to 29 million student-loan borrowers and that some lenders may have to lay off staff or even close. Some of the 15 million college students who receive grants or work-study assignments at some 6,000 colleges would also see changes.
Congressional trips overseas likely will take a hit. House Speaker John Boehner told Republican members in a closed-door meeting that he’s suspending the use of military aircraft for official trips by members.
Cleanup of radioactive waste at nuclear sites across the country would be delayed. The Energy Department says the cuts would postpone work at the department’s highest-risk sites, including the Hanford nuclear reservation near Richland, in Washington state, where six tanks are leaking radioactive waste left over from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.
Any furloughs at the Internal Revenue Service will be delayed until summer, after the tax-filing season ends, so the agency says it shouldn’t delay tax refunds. But other IRS services will be affected. Millions of taxpayers may not be able to get responses from IRS call centers and taxpayer assistance centers. The cuts would delay IRS responses to taxpayer letters and force the agency to complete fewer tax return reviews, reducing its ability to detect and prevent fraud. The IRS says this could result in billions of dollars in lost revenue, complicating deficit-reduction efforts.
More than 3.8 million people jobless for six months or longer could see their unemployment benefits reduced by as much as 9.4 percent. Thousands of veterans would not receive job counseling. Fewer Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors could mean 1,200 fewer inspections of work sites.