Just the other day I brought up President Obama’s plan of premeditated pain for Americans, which was met with skepticism and lamentations about the “real people” who will be affected by sequestration cuts. Indeed. And right now there are real kids who are dying and real people who are hungry because the Department of Nirvana or the Department of Heaven on Earth haven’t been funded. Sadly, golden coins can not be found by smashing bricks that levitate over our heads like a game of Super Mario Bros.
Regardless, my point was that such a small cut to the overall budget could be diffused in ways that would blunt much of the blow, and in some cases it might actually force agencies to do away with some of their wasteful practices. I work in an industry that has been gutted by the emergence of the Internet (who needs a paper when you can just go online?), so I know a thing or two about working on a skeleton crew on a lean budget. I’m not sure why the federal government sees going into debt at a slightly slower rate than the previous year as a “cut,” but that’s a debate for another day.
Why? Because along comes Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland during a House Appropriations subcommittee meeting, who confronted Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over a White House memo on the affects of sequestration on 2,050 children who take part in its “317 Immunization Program. Despite President Obama’s budget, in which twice as much in cuts to the same program was proposed, it is the Republicans who the CDC suddenly felt the need to chastise for their cold hard ways.
Asked about how the official “Republicans are a dastardly bunch” memo was put together — i.e., specifics on the CDC’s coordination with the White House on sequestration estimates — Mr. Frieden said, “I would have to get back to you on that.”
“You as the director don’t know if you assisted the White House in preparing an estimate that was distributed to every member of Congress?” asked Rep. Harris.
Dr. Friedman could not answer.
Rep. Harris continued, mentioning that President Obama’s budget would have reduced funding by roughly $58 million. He then asked how it was possible that the CDC would be able to prioritize resources under the president’s budget so as not to curtail vaccinations, while much smaller sequestration cuts of $30 million, which the president blames on Republicans, would result in thousands of children not being taken care of.
Dr. Frieden could not answer.
“Can I assume that the president’s proposed cut would have reduced funding to 4,100 children in Maryland?” Rep. Harris asked. Frieden again said he would “have to get back to you on that.”
Rep. Harris concluded by saying the case CDC was trying to make was “very interesting.”
Boom. Watch as Dr. Frieden’s gives the confused look of a teenager, who just got caught red handed with a secret stash of drugs or beer or porn magazines. (Although, like the newspaper industry, I suspect girly mag publishers have also been hit hard by the internet … but you get the point.)