Will You Be Affected by the Impending Budget Sequester?

Could there be more closed and empty airport security checkpoints in your future in the short term? Photograph ©istockphoto.com by Georgios Alexandris.

FlyerTalk members are concerned as to whether they will experience significant disruptions related to travel as of March 1, 2013, when automatic spending cuts of $85 billion by the federal government of the United States are expected to become effective — one billion dollars of which would affect the Transportation Department of the United States — possibly leading to flight delays in part due to a reduction of air traffic controllers, longer queues at airport security checkpoints, and possible wait times of up to three hours to pass through Customs and Border patrol at the busiest airports.

While some FlyerTalk members expressed how pleased they would be at a reduction of Transportation Security Administration agents — perhaps jokingly, or at least with partial levity — and other FlyerTalk members use words such as catastrophe to describe a potentially disastrous scenario, other FlyerTalk members take a seemingly more objective point of view, arguing that the automatic cuts on discretionary spending would amount to no more than seven percent — if even that much.

Perhaps the amount is more like 2.2 percent.

Seven percent. 2.2 percent. Does it really matter? That is a miniscule portion of the overall budget at best. Federal agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration cannot trim a single-digit percentage of their budget without causing a catastrophe?

I suppose when your agency purportedly wants to purchase up to three million dollars in new electronic equipment from Apple, it can be difficult to trim the budget. After all, who can live without an iPhone these days?

How can any agency do without $17,500.00 for 70,000 commemorative wrist bands, which were ordered by the Transportation Security Administration last year?

I like how Jane Wells of CNBC puts the federal budget in household terms:

According to the White House, below are projected revenues and expenditures for 2013 without the bill approved to avoid the fiscal cliff:

  • Income: $2,902,000,000,000
  • Outlays: $3,803,000,000,000
  • Deficit: $ 901,000,000,000

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill voted on New Year’s Day actually adds $349,640,000,000 to the deficit this year, despite the tax increases.

That makes the new deficit $1,250,640,000,000. Meantime, our National Debt is somewhere around $16,400,000,000,000 at the moment.

Hard to get your head around all those zeroes? Why not remove seven of the zeroes after each figure and look at these numbers like it’s your household budget:

  • Income: $290,200
  • Spending: $380,300
  • Deficit: $90,100

Deficit after you make fiscal cliff changes: $125,064
Balance on your credit card: $1,640,000

I guess the only reason why FlyerTalk members should be concerned is because of the way the United States federal government does not seem to know how to effectively manage a budget and cash flow, as evidenced by the national debt being currently greater than five times the amount of income — otherwise, I tend to believe that the fear is being generated by politicians spreading propaganda solely to further their interests.

Even if the automatic spending cuts become effective as of March 1, 2013, it will take time for their effect — if any — to trickle down to where you will notice the difference. It will not immediately happen on March 1. This is the federal government of the United States we are talking about here. Nothing happens fast.

While all of the details of the results of the automatic spending cuts have not yet been released, the following effects are expected to occur — including but not limited to:

  • The “vast majority” of the 47,000 workers of the Federal Aviation Administration would be furloughed one day from every two-week pay period through September 2013 — with a maximum of two days per every two weeks — according to claims by Ray LaHood, transportation secretary of the United States
  • Customs and Border Protection officers would be furloughed 12 to 14 days each
  • Greater than 100 air traffic control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations or 10,000 commercial operations per year would close — equating to 427 flights, or 27 commercial flights a day
  • Eliminate midnight shifts at greater than 60 air traffic control towers throughout the United States

All of that and more — from a supposedly measly seven percent of the budget?

Give me a break. That seven percent cut should be a piece of cake — if you learn how to budget properly.

I could be wrong, or perhaps I just don’t get it — but while you may eventually notice the effects of the automatic spending cuts sequester, I see no doomsday scenario lurking in your travel future as a result. My advice to you is to stay informed and keep yourself updated to stay ahead of the game — and plan your travel wisely and accordingly.

Comments (Showing 4 of 4)

  • WillTravel4Food at 12:36pm February 25, 2013

    Well for those of us who are directly impacted by this it has become a huge issue. I will be seeing up to 22 days of lost pay for the period April 1 to Sept 30. That’s equivalent to one month’s pay. I don’t know about the rest of you but that’s a big hit on my budget.

    Now here’s what’s worse, based on the agency I work, there is a prohibition on outside employment with specified complanies. Those companies happen to be the companies that would hire me, even as a consultant. This is because I have a very industry-specific skill set.

    So yes, this is going to be hurting my budget and my vacation is looking to be a non-event this year. Do you think the gov’t will cover the cost to cancel my award ticket this summer? HAHA…

  • Brian Cohen at 12:45pm February 25, 2013

    I am sorry to hear about the potential impact the impending budget sequester will have upon you, WillTravel4Food. Thank you for sharing from a different perspective about which I have not thought.

  • glasnost7 at 12:59pm February 25, 2013

    I’m growing tired of the oversimplification of government finance by comparing it to a household budget, regardless of how compelling the argument for greater fiscal restraint.

    If we’re to follow that model, we must also assume that $52,500 of that family’s budget will automatically have to be spent on firearms and other methods of home defense. Furthermore, the lion’s share of the $1.6M on their credit cards would’ve already been spent on two different gunfights with people down the street.

    However, if we can indulge this simplification just one more time, it does make sense for a family to borrow on their home at ridiculously low rates if it will lead to future income. At a time when the Treasury is paying negative interest (as compared to inflation), one might compare it to a low interest rate home equity loan to renovate a basement for creating rental income. It’s not a perfect example (the “household finance” one never is), but it speaks to the larger issue that government finance is grossly mischaracterized by those who would seek to advance their point of view.

  • Iuguy16 at 4:37pm February 25, 2013

    I usually enjoy reading flyertalk posts because they are interesting, well researched, and provide perpestive. This post does none of the above. First, the author did little research on the actual impact on air traffic control. Second, the author doesn’t understand the cuts are not Justma 7 percent cut in total budget. The way the cuts are written, they are going to cut 7 percent in each budget item, it is not like a 7 percent reduction in total budget. In short, the conclusion the author derives are probably accurate, but the research and perpestive are poor.

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