Traverse City Record-Eagle


March 2, 2013

Fact Check: Truth behind sequester spinning


The Sunday talk shows included exaggerated claims from both sides about the debate over automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect March 1:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said “as many as 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs.”

But that assumes the entire $2.8 billion in looming DOE cuts would come from teacher salaries. Duncan himself testified there would be cuts elsewhere -including cutting “more than 70,000 students from grant and work study programs” and furloughing department workers.

Sen. Tom Coburn claimed federal spending has doubled in 11 years, but he doesn’t account for inflation. In inflation-adjusted dollars, government spending has risen from about $2.4 trillion in 2001 to $3.5 trillion in 2012 — an increase of $1.1 trillion, or nearly 50 percent.

Barring a last-minute deal, the automatic spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act were scheduled to take effect March 1. Under the law, the Office of Management and Budget will direct all federal departments to cut spending across the board this fiscal year by $85 billion and overall by nearly $1 trillion over 10 years. The cuts would be equally divided among domestic and defense programs.

In Washington’s budget parlance, this is known as sequestration.

40,000 Teachers at Risk?

Duncan, President Obama’s education secretary, and Coburn, a Republican senator from Oklahoma, were among the political figures debating the potential impact of the cuts on the Feb. 24 talk shows.

On “Face the Nation,” Duncan warned about the impact on the nation’s education system, while on “Fox News Sunday,” Coburn stressed the need to reduce federal spending.

We’ll first look at Duncan’s claim, which is emblematic of the White House’s dire warnings about the looming budget cuts.

Duncan, Feb. 24: It just means a lot more children will not get the kinds of services and opportunities they need and as many as 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs.

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