Tag Archives: sequestration

Federal Government Offers Bribes to Hide the Coming Job Losses … Until After the Election

I’ve written a few posts about the sequestration cuts which are sizable cuts in the Defense Department’s budget that will lead to hundreds of thousands of job losses.  A controversy arose when by law the companies have to alert employees to the cuts but the Obama Administration wants to hide this fact from the public.  This is part of their double-game I alluded to in the piece this morning where Obama mouths the words he’s against the budget cuts (and job losses) but does absolutely nothing to stop either.  The Hill picks up on the latest efforts to silence the Defense contractors who by law are supposed to inform employees of the looming job cuts.  The Obama Labor Department is offering bribes to the contractors to violate the law:

The Obama administration issued new guidance intended for defense contractors Friday afternoon, reiterating the administration’s position that the companies should not be issuing layoff notices over sequestration. The Labor Department issued guidance in July saying it would be “inappropriate” for contractors to issue notices of potential layoffs tied to sequestration cuts. But a few contractors, most notably Lockheed Martin, said they still were considering whether to issue the notices — which would be sent out just days before the November election.

But the Friday guidance from the Office of Management and Budget raised the stakes in the dispute, telling contractors that they would be compensated for legal costs if layoffs occur due to contract cancellations under sequestration — but only if the contractors follow the Labor guidance. The guidance said that if plant closings or mass layoffs occur under sequestration, then “employee compensation costs for [Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification] WARN act liability as determined by a court” would be paid for covered by the contracting federal agency.

bribe [ brīb ] 1. persuade somebody with enticement: to give somebody money or some other incentive to do something, especially something illegal or dishonest
Senate Republicans, who accused the White House of trying to hide job losses after the first guidance, said Friday that the new OMB statement “puts politics ahead of American workers.” “The Obama Administration is cynically trying to skirt the WARN Act to keep the American people in the dark about this looming national security and fiscal crisis,” Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said in a statement. “The president should insist that companies act in accordance with the clearly stated law and move forward with the layoff notices.”The fight over WARN Act notices began in June when Lockheed Martin CEO Bob Stevens said his company might send the notices to all 123,000 of its employees.
Quid pro quo

But the new guidance would appear to address one of the chief concerns from the companies — that they could be liable to compensate employees who were laid off if the companies don’t issue the notices. The GOP senators complained, however, that this tactic would push the cost of the layoffs onto taxpayers.

For a refresher, here is the relevant part of the WARN Act:

What Triggers Notice

Plant Closing: A covered employer must give notice if an employment site (or one or more facilities or operating units within an employment site) will be shut down, and the shutdown will result in an employment loss (as defined later) for 50 or more employees during any 30-day period. This does not count employees who have worked less than 6 months in the last 12 months or employees who work an average of less than 20 hours a week for that employer. These latter groups, however, are entitled to notice (discussed later).

Mass Layoff: A covered employer must give notice if there is to be a mass layoff which does not result from a plant closing, but which will result in an employment loss at the employment site during any 30-day period for 500 or more employees, or for 50-499 employees if they make up at least 33% of the employer’s active workforce. Again, this does not count employees who have worked less than 6 months in the last 12 months or employees who work an average of less than 20 hours a week for that employer. These latter groups, however, are entitled to notice (discussed later).

Romney Talks the Military and Foreign Policy in Pennsylvania

The Romney campaign surprised more than a few observers hitting the stump in Pennsylvania this week. Speaking at Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Delaware County he took the opportunity to take the Obama Administration to task over crippling cuts in defense spending as well as a flailing foreign policy in the face of Islamic extremists:

Mitt Romney journeyed to a military college here Friday, aiming to make Pennsylvania a more competitive election battleground and tearing into President Obama on foreign and domestic policy in a speech delivered before a backdrop of stoic, uniformed cadets. The Republican presidential nominee charged that Obama has failed to lead both abroad, during a year of tumult in the Middle East, and on the home front, through a prolonged economic recession. “The president wants to go down the same path he’s been on for the last four years,” Romney said. “He wants to keep the status quo. I don’t think we can afford four more years like the last four years. The president calls his campaign slogan ‘Forward.’ I call it ‘Forewarned,’ all right? We know where it heads; we don’t want to go there.”

Crippling Defense Cuts

He argued that Obama would cut the military budget by $1 trillion over the next decade and that cadets looking for a regular job after graduation would have trouble finding one. The defense cuts Romney referred to are automatic spending cuts that would go into effect next year if Congress does not agree to a long-term plan to reduce the deficit.

Note: the classic liberal bias is in this report where the President is doing absolutely nothing about stopping these defense cuts but the Post reporter takes time to make sure readers know Obama has mouthed the words he against the defense cuts> The reporter also ensures the opposing campaign can respond to the charges. When Obama levies an attack it is presented unchallenged by the reporter and often without any response from the Romney campaign.

Foreign Policy

Obama, Romney said, is not providing real leadership as deadly protests sweep the Middle East. “As we’ve seen over the last year, the world needs American leadership,” he said. “I think we look around and say: Why is it we are at the mercy of events? Why are we not shaping events?”

Where Does Obama’s Strength in Virginia Come From?

In a number of posts I have pointed out how difficult it is for Mitt Romney to crack the Northern Virginia stranglehold Democrats and Obama have on Virginia’s most populous region. One of the best was a study on the voting trends of Fairfax County — Virginia’s most populous — demonstrating that since 1980 the Democrat % of vote has essentially doubled from 30.76% to 60.12% over the last 30 years.  This change in voting is directly and causally correlated with the steady bipartisan increase in size of government over that period.  Whether it be Reagan’s Defense build up, the folly of Clinton’s “era of Big Government is over” when it only grew (the economy simply grew faster), or George Bush overseeing the largest expansion in federal government since LBJ’s “Great Society”. The only thing Barack Obama did was take each of those expansions and accelerate them to ludicrous and unsustainable levels.

What does all of this have to do with populous and growing Northern Virginia and its lock on the Democrat vote?  The New York Times Ross Douthat inadvertently lays out the reason which is the end result of a 30+ year expansion of the federal government where America is taxed more heavily while the imperial city of Washington reaps the benefits:

WHEN I moved to Washington, D.C., in 2002, you could sense that the nation’s capital had turned a corner after decades of decline. But the Washington of 10 years ago still looked basically like the city that had been scarred by riots in the 1960s and then emptied by white flight, with a prosperous northwest divided from a blighted south and east, and frontiers of gentrification that weren’t that many blocks from the Capitol itself.

No doubt there were boomtowns in the 19th-century Wild West that changed faster than D.C. did over the ensuing decade. But the changes to Washington have been staggering to watch. High-rises have leaped up, office buildings have risen, neighborhoods have been transformed. Streets once deserted after dusk are now crowded with restaurants and bars. A luxurious waterfront area is taking shape around the stadium that the playoff-bound Nationals call home. Million-dollar listings abound in neighborhoods that 10 years ago were transitional at best.

Now the Northern Virginia succor:

Cross the bridges into Virginia or shoot north into Maryland, and you’ll find concentrations of wealth greater than in the richest counties around New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco. Last week, new census data revealed that 7 of the 10 richest American counties in 2011 were in the Washington, D.C., region. Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington Counties, all in Northern Virginia, have higher median incomes than every other county in the United States.

Whence comes this wealth? Mostly from Washington’s one major industry: the federal government. Not from direct federal employment, which has risen only modestly of late, but from the growing armies of lobbyists and lawyers, contractors and consultants, who make their living advising and influencing and facilitating the public sector’s work.

How did each one of these counties vote in the last election?

  • Fairfax County:  Obama: 60%, McCain 39%
  • Loudoun County: Obama 54%, McCain 46%
  • Arlington County: Obama 72%, McCain 27%

Nearly every one of these votes is bought and paid for with the public’s tax dollars through transfer payments from the country’s pockets into their employment.  The reason the Washington crowd goes to such great lengths to demean and dismiss the Tea Party is because their message of small government and reduced Federal spending puts most of these people out of their cushy, lucrative, every year get-a-raise, retire at 55 with a full pension jobs.  This is much the same reason Ohio –a 50/50 state — is stubbornly favoring Obama thanks to the nefarious actions in the bankruptcy proceedings of the auto companies. Even without Obama the auto companies would have emerged nicely from bankruptcy, only they would have been healthier companies and without the illegal transfer payments to the auto unions. He does the same thing for Northern Virginia through the unprecedented expansion of government, only this time it’s legal.  Douthat closes thusly:

In reality, our government isn’t running trillion-dollar deficits because we’re letting the working class get away with not paying its fair share. We’re running those deficits because too many powerful interest groups have a stake in making sure the party doesn’t stop. When you look around the richest precincts of today’s Washington, you don’t see a city running on paternalism or dependency. You see a city running on exploitation.

Battleground Counties: Prince William County, Virginia

Prince William County, Virginia was a county mentioned in the very first post that inspired the whole Battleground Counties series but I never had a chance to profile this enormously important county in one of the two key Battleground States this election. If one candidate wins both Virginia and Ohio, they almost certainly win the election and whoever wins Prince William County likely wins Virginia so a lot rides on this burgeoning exurb. Just further west of voter-rich Fairfax County, Prince William only two decades ago would have been considered rural, but between the dramatic expansion of federal workers in Northern Virginia and a solid technology sector in this region, Prince William County has gone from horse pastures to McMansions in short order.  This is an area where the obscure sequestration debate resonates loudly –a quarter of its residents commute over an hour to get to work, most all for federal jobs impacted by the cuts. The county’s election impact is undeniable. Between 2004 and 2008 both the population and voter turnout for the major party candidates increased dramatically, from 131, 047 to 161,056 a 23% increase.  To put this is perspective, George Bush won the County in 2004  by 6% with a total of 69,776 votes.  In 2008 John McCain garnered 67,621 votes (enough to beat John Kerry by 6k votes) but still lost by 16% (25.8k votes) to President Obama. This is a changing and increasingly valuable exurb. Local writers at InsideNoVa.com drill down on their once sleepy but now hopping home county:

In June 2008, Democrat Barack Obama kicked off his general election campaign at the Nissan Pavilion in western Prince William County. Five months later, he closed his presidential campaign with an election-eve rally that drew about 85,000 people to the Prince William County Fairgrounds. This Friday, Obama returns to the area, holding a re-election rally in Manassas, where GOP nominee Mitt Romney campaigned Aug. 11 with his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan. Prince William, a booming Northern Virginia exurb of 413,000 residents, is home to some of Virginia’s most prominent conservatives, including Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Corey A. Stewart, chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors. Yet Obama carried Prince William by 25,000 votes in 2008, becoming the first Democratic nominee to win the county — and the state — in 44 years. The political cross-currents that made that possible — affluence, diversity, cul-de-sacs sprouting where there were once country fields — make Virginia’s second-largest county a key battleground in this pivotal swing state. “If you win Fairfax County and Prince William you’re almost guaranteed to tilt the state,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-11th. As for Romney, “He’s got to take Prince William,” says Connolly’s predecessor, Republican Thomas M. Davis III. “He doesn’t need it by a lot, but he needs to carry Prince William.”

Democrat beachhead in Northern Virginia

For decades, Prince William and Loudoun County, its neighbor to the north, were outside-the-Beltway behemoths that gave Republicans something of a firewall in presidential elections. In 2008, that firewall collapsed. Obama swept all of Northern Virginia, winning Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park. Collectively, Obama won Northern Virginia by 234,079 votes. In the rest of the state combined, he edged Republican John McCain by 448 votes. If Republicans hope to retake Virginia at the presidential level, they will have to chip away at Obama’s dominance in the state’s population centers such as Loudoun and Prince William, the fastest-growing localities in the state.

GOP opportunity

If Republicans hope to retake Virginia at the presidential level, they will have to chip away at Obama’s dominance in the state’s population centers such as Loudoun and Prince William, the fastest-growing localities in the state. Virginia Republicans say this election comes in a different climate from 2008. They say they have enthusiasm on their side and much better statewide organization than four years ago. Marshall said that “the present economic difficulties may turn some Democrats into Republican voters or more likely presidential no-shows and congressional-voters only, because whichever party is in power usually is blamed for the state of the economy.” Davis said Republicans “will do considerably better in what we call ROVA — the rest of Virginia,” than in 2008, but “they need to cut those margins down in NOVA. You certainly can’t make up 230,000 votes in the rest of the state.” That is a challenge because Northern Virginia “is culturally to the left of the Republican Party and we’re losing it on culture,” Davis said.

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Romney Goes on the Offensive in Ohio

Although the economy has been and will continue to be THE issue in this campaign, Mitt Romney is making certain every wing of the Republican party knows he is there for them as he bounces around the Battlegrounds.  The Washington Post catches up with him in Ohio:

A feisty Mitt Romney returned to the campaign trail here Monday with sharp new attacks against President Obama over cuts to the defense budget and the stubborn unemployment rate in a deliberate effort to win over moderate voters.

With Obama opening a lead over Romney in the final two months of the long — and long-deadlocked — presidential race, Romney is trying at once to appeal to the nation’s moderate middle and to stir the passions of his more strident conservative base. On Friday, Romney campaigned alongside one of Washington’s most conservative firebrands, Rep. Steve King, in King’s staunchly evangelical Iowa district. The next day, Romney addressed a Virginia Beach rally just moments after Pat Robertson, the venerable and sometimes inflammatory televangelist, took a turn onstage. The Obama campaign said Romney was “pandering to the most extreme voices in his party.”

Yet there Romney was Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” praising Democratic former president Bill Clinton and sounding a softer, more conciliatory tone on the issue of health care. Although he said he would work to repeal “Obamacare,” Romney said there were aspects of Obama’s health-care overhaul that he would keep, such as ensuring that people with preexisting conditions have access to health insurance coverage.

And here in Ohio on Monday, Romney seized on the looming cuts to the nation’s defense budget — which he said would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and endanger national security — and on poor economic indicators, such as the unemployment rate and the rising number of Americans on food stamps, to sow doubts about Obama among undecided voters. Romney said Obama, who spoke extensively in his convention speech about what he has done to help middle-class families struggling through the economic recession, did not talk specifically about the unemployment rate, which stands at 8.1 percent, or the 47 million Americans now on food stamps.

Later, addressing an overflow crowd in Mansfield, Romney asked supporters, “You remember at his convention four years ago that [Obama] was going to slow the rise of the oceans and he was going to also heal the planet? Well, I’m here to heal the American people, to help the American people, to help them to get good jobs. . . . I want to help more people to fulfill their dreams and build great enterprises and put people to work. And I want to heal our economy.” Campaign advisers said Romney talked about defense cuts and economic data specifically to appeal to amenable voters.

Defense Cuts to Hurt Iowa

While the sequestration cuts in the Defense Department are more prominently impacting Northern Virginia and Florida, the Hawkeye State has its own smaller but meaningful issues with the controversial defense cuts:

Charles Larson Sr. of West Des Moines, a  retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel and a former U.S. attorney, and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Eugene Nosco, now a Waukee lawyer, spoke at a news conference at Iowa Republican Party headquarters in Des Moines. They contended four more years of Obama as commander in chief would hurt the nation’s standing in the world, while Republican Mitt Romney would protect the country’s defense forces. Both men were against a proposal by the U.S. Department of Defense under Obama to eliminate all F-16 aircraft at the Iowa Air National Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines. The plan, which is being fought on a bipartisan basis by Iowa’s congressional delegation, would eliminate 378 people now serving with the 132nd Fighter Wing, including 81 full-time employees. The unit now has about 1,000 airmen.

Larson said keeping the 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines offers a “win-win” situation for the nation because the force is less expensive than full-time, active-duty units but is very capable. Under Obama’s proposals, the United States would have the smallest navy since 1916, the smallest army since 1940, and the smallest air force in history, Larson added. “I know from observing throughout life that it takes time to rebuild those national security capabilities and I know that they are critical to our role in the world,” said Larson, who served in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 as the Justice Department’s senior adviser to U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte. Larson said he doesn’t believe Obama has an appreciation for the history of the United States, and he cited Obama’s so-called “Apology Tour” in Europe, in which the U.S. president reportedly told the French that America has “has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive” towards Europe.

Obama’s defenders say the president never used the world “apologize” and that the Paris quote was taken out of context. They point out that Obama was attempting to restore relations with Europe, where there was strong opposition to the war in Iraq. They also note that President George W. Bush, during a 2003 visit to Senegal, said that American is still troubled by the legacy of slavery, which wasn’t exactly an apology, either, but was more pointed than Obama’s comments. Chris Hellman, a communications liaison at a group known as the National Priorities Project, said in a statement issued today:  “The notion that the military budget has sustained deep cuts in service to deficit reduction is outrageous. The military budget has grown every year for more than a decade — it has grown like a ‘gusher,’ to quote former defense secretary Robert Gates. Now the Department of Defense base budget faces a slim 2.5 percent cut in fiscal 2013. This myth that the military has been hit hard is holding up progress in today’s budget debates.”

Democrats Going to Hand Virginia to Romney?

Although Virginia is an unquestioned priority for both campaigns, Washington politics may hand the state to Mitt Romney because mandated Defense Department cuts by Democrats may turn nearly 100,000 northern Virginia employees into angry anti-Obama voters:

With presidential contenders Barack Obama and Mitt Romney currently tied in the polls, the outcome of the November election is likely to be decided by how a handful of “swing” states vote.  That will make a few densely populated counties in each swing state the main battleground for the fall campaign, and the most important will be Fairfax County in Virginia. In the case of Fairfax County, its 1.1 million residents represent one in seven of all Virginians, and so it bulks very large in the determination of which slate of electors will get the most votes. In 2008, candidate Obama attracted 310,000 votes in Fairfax, which was more than his margin of victory in the state.  No other county in the state contributed even a third of that number.

When last year’s Budget Control Act mandated cutting half a trillion dollars out of Pentagon spending over the next ten years, officials were able to find most of the required cuts by simply scaling back the administration’s planned increases to military budgets in future years.  In the past, progressive administrations have not been noted for raising military outlays as overseas conflicts wound down. However, only half of the defense cuts mandated by the budget law have begun to take effect, and now another half trillion dollars in cuts is poised to trigger on January 2, cutting the Pentagon’s base budget by ten percent in fiscal 2013 and subsequent years.  Studies indicate that Virginia will be hit harder than just about any other state, with 87,000 jobs disappearing in 2013 and 115,000 in 2014.  Reporter Patrick O’Conner warned in the Wall Street Journal on July 9 that the prospect of widespread layoffs in the military-industrial complex “could undercut Mr. Obama in battleground states heavily dependent on military spending, particularly Virginia.”

Which brings us back to Fairfax County.  Nobody seriously believes that Romney can carry a county that went over 60 percent for Obama the last time around.  There are too many government workers and liberals in the county for that to happen.  However, with hundreds of thousands of northern Virginians worried about their defense jobs in a second Obama Administration, it is quite possible Obama will receive less votes in the county — maybe enough less so that Romney can accumulate a majority statewide, winning Virginia’s 13 electoral-college votes.

Obama’s Hidden Weakness in Northern Virginia

In every discussion about the Battleground nature of Virginia, the region closest to Washington DC is always featured prominently.  That is because this is the part of the state that has changed the most over the decades thanks to the influx of immigrants and educated whites — two of Obama’s most important voting blocs. The often untold aspect of this demographic change, though, is much of the change from red to blue in voting is due to a three decade long expansion of the Federal government creating near-permanent employment in Federal jobs for most of the Northern Virginia region.

However, an insidious provision in the joke of a debt-ceiling deal last year could blow up in the Obama campaign’s face. As part of the deal, Congress was supposed to offset the debt ceiling increase with spending cuts.  Absent this, $500 billion in automatic cuts in defense spending would take place — a process called sequestration. Well, Congress never passed any spending cuts and sequestration is fast approaching.  What makes this politically perilous to the Obama campaign is the fact that a great percentage of the cuts would come from Department of Defense contractors and sub-contractors in the Obama-friendly bastion of Northern Virginia.  Politico today reports on plans from Lockheed Martin to fire the first blow:

Lockheed Martin is contemplating a pre-election move that could shake up the political landscape. Right before Election Day, the company is likely to notify the “vast majority” of its 123,000 workers that they’re at risk of being laid off, said Greg Walters, the company’s vice president of legislative affairs. Walters’s comments are some of the most specific threats yet from an industry that’s trying to head off the $500 billion in automatic cuts in defense spending set to begin taking effect Jan. 2. Called sequestration, the cuts are being phased in over 10 years, with about $55 billion slated for 2013. Unless Congress reaches a deal to stave off the cuts, “we will find it necessary to issue these [layoff] notices probably to the vast majority of our employee base,” Walters told POLITICO.

Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor and a bellwether of the industry, won’t be alone. Other defense contractors have also signaled they’re considering sending out notices right before Election Day. The layoffs, of course, won’t all happen on Jan. 2, as it would likely take months for sequestration to begin affecting contractors’ bottom lines. But the timing of the cuts — along with the requirement of 60-day notice — provides an opportunity for the defense industry to ratchet up the pressure on President Barack Obama and congressional leaders to tackle the issue before November. The White House Office of Management and Budget has not yet provided guidance for how sequestration would be carried out. Under sequestration, nearly every account in the Pentagon budget would be trimmed, resulting in a 10 percent reduction in the Defense Department. Additionally, because the cuts would be leveled across the board, Pentagon planners would not be able to prioritize what should be eliminated first.