Once upon a time, in a land where reasonable people could reasonably disagree…

It’s all the rage, right?  Everyone is talking about it, and I should, too?  Yeah, I suppose.  Thing is, I really don’t want to.  I’m really bored with it.  {{Insert shocked face here}}  It’s been talked to death.  It looks pretty certain to happen at this point, and no one in a position to change that really seems to have any interest in doing so.

{{Insert dark, scary music here}} The Sequestration

In theory it is an across the board equal cut in spending.  The reality is very different though, and this space is dedicated to real and accurate information.  So, let’s start with that, shall we?

First, it is not, across the board.  “OMG!  Good golly, Miss Molly!  It’s not?!”  No, it’s really not.  There are a whole list of programs that are exempted from the cuts entirely.  There are another list that are under special rules about how they will be impacted by the sequester.  “But, the local news/CNN/NBC/FOX/Obama/Boehner said …”  Look, I really couldn’t care less, what they told you, or what you heard about this being “thoughtless” or “across the board”.  They are usually FoS, right?  Haven’t we demonstrated that often enough?  Let’s go to the source, shall we?

According to the Congressional Research Service, in its Budget “Sequestration” and Selected Program Exemptions and Special Rules report prepared for congress and dated January 10, 2013

The following are selected programs and types of spending identified in Section 255 as exempt from sequestration:

  • Social Security benefits (old-age, survivors, and disability) and Tier 1 Railroad Retirement benefits.
  • All programs administered by the VA, and special benefits for certain World War II veterans.17
  • Net interest (budget function 900).
  • Payments to individuals in the form of refundable tax credits.18
  • Unobligated balances, carried over from prior years, for nondefense programs.
  • At the President’s discretion (subject to notification to Congress), military personnel accounts may be exempt entirely, or a lower sequestration percentage may apply.19
  • A list of “other” budget accounts and activities; readers should consult the statute for a complete list. A few selected examples include
    • activities resulting from private donations, bequests or voluntary contributions, or financed by voluntary payments for good or services;
    • advances to the Unemployment Trust Fund;20
    • payments to various retirement, health care, and disability trust funds;
    • certain Tribal and Indian trust accounts; and
    • Medical Facilities Guaranty and Loan Fund.
  • Specified federal retirement and disability accounts and activities (consult the statute for the complete list).
  • Prior legal obligations of the federal government in specified budget accounts (consult the statute for the complete list).21
  • Low-income programs, including
    • Academic Competitiveness/Smart Grant Program;22
    • mandatory funding under the Child Care and Development Fund;
    • Child Nutrition Programs (including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Food, and others, but excluding Special Milk);
    • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
    • Commodity Supplemental Food Program;
    • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the TANF Contingency Fund;
    • Family Support Programs;23
    • Federal Pell Grants;
    • Medicaid;
    • Foster Care and Permanency Programs;
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps);


    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
  • Medicare Part D low-income premium and cost-sharing subsidies; Medicare Part D catastrophic subsidy payments; and Qualified Individual (QI) premiums.24
  • Specified economic recovery programs, including GSE Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements, the Office of Financial Stability, and the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
  • The following “split-treatment” programs, to the extent that the programs’ budgetary resources are subject to obligations limitations in appropriations bills:
  • Federal Aid-Highways;
  • Highway Traffic Safety Grants;
  • Operations and Research NHTSA and National Driver Register;
  • Motor Carrier Safety Operations and Programs;
  • Motor Carrier Safety Grants;
  • Formula and Bus Grants; and
  • Grants-in-Aid for Airports.

Sorry that’s so long, but it’s taken directly from the report (page 9) and I think it is important to see it in its entirety, because as you can see, you have been being fed lies no matter which news outlet you’re listening to or which political talking head you are wanting to believe.  Also, note that it is not the entire list of programs that are exempt.  It is only a partial list of “selected programs”.  The people who are in the position of supplying live, reliable data to those who go out and spin the tales are telling them that these programs are exempt from the cuts.  Please re-read that sentence.  Let me summarize it for you.


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About Just Torch

Author of the SCIAMAGE column a space devoted to American political and social commentary and analysis. It is unabashedly liberal, but makes every effort to present clear, verifiable facts and sound reasoning. It also makes a commitment to clearly distinguish between facts and opinions. View all posts by Just Torch

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