If ever there was evidence to support the view that the federal government is too big and has too much money, it is a March report by the Government Accountability Office. The report details the number of people laid off due to the $85.3 billion in spending cuts resulting from the 2013 budget exercise ominously known as "the sequester." That number of federal layoffs, it turns out, was one.
That revelation has the administration's Office of Management and Budget in hot water with some members of Congress. Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, is demanding to know why the administration claimed last year that the sequester threatened hundreds of thousands of jobs.
OMB spokesman Steve Posner responded in an interview with Fox News that the cutbacks did force agencies to reduce hours of some employees and to defer hiring. That's a weak explanation, but apparently the best Posner could do.
Fox reports that the one laid off employee worked for the U.S. Parole Commission. The other government agencies made due by reducing overtime, cutting employee travel and putting some workers on furlough.
All of that suggests of course that there was plenty of fat that could be cut in the government at the time without inflicting that much pain, and certainly without disrupting the day-to-day functions of the federal government.
It certainly doesn't square with President Obama's claim in a February 2013 speech at the White House that, "These cuts â ¦ will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls."
Or with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's July claim to the Washington Post that, "We have learned that the sequestration already has cut 1.6 million jobs."
Or even with House Majority Leader John Boehner's claim in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the cuts threatened "thousands of jobs."
OK, we'll grant that all three men probably were including potential job losses that extended beyond the government itself, to contractors and the like. But when one considers how minimal the impact of the cuts was on government, it is hard to envision its contractors having a substantially different experience. Were some jobs lost? Probably. Was the number in the hundreds of thousands or millions? Clearly not.
The overarching point here is this: If you can cut $85 billion out of the federal checkbook and the net impact is one federal job, it proves there is a lot of fat to cut. The nation would be well served if Congress would impose more of this sort of discipline.