Budget Cuts No Longer “Abstract”

August 22, 2011 at 3:28 pm

The enormous numbers tossed about in debates over how to reduce deficits are hard to put in everyday terms.  Finally, though, we’re beginning to see some specific examples of the ways, both big and small, in which recent and proposed cuts in federal discretionary spending will affect all of us.

The Washington Post reports today that funding cuts for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will contribute to a gap in weather satellite coverage by delaying the replacement of a key satellite.  The gap, which will start in about 2016, could last a year or more and could reduce the accuracy of near-term weather forecasts, including early warnings of tornado conditions and massive snowfalls — potentially putting public safety at risk.

Also in today’s Post, columnist Robert Samuelson bemoans the pending demise of the Census Bureau’s annual Statistical Abstract of the United States.  For over a century, journalists, researchers, students, and others have relied on the Statistical Abstract for authoritative information about the U.S. economy, society, and government.  But the Census Bureau, facing a funding cut next year, plans to eliminate the Abstract to focus its limited resources on maintaining the quality of the data it collects.

Funding to implement major legislation Congress passed last year to improve food safety is also at risk.  Reports of contaminated products continue to make headlines, and House-approved cuts to the Food Safety and Inspection Service would make the situation worse.

Also, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is eliminating the Social Security Statement, an annual summary it sends future beneficiaries explaining what they can expect to receive in Social Security and Medicare benefits.  SSA has dropped this helpful tool for retirement planning to save money and enable it to continue to process benefit applications in a timely fashion.

Unfortunately, many more examples like these will appear in the coming months.  Bottom line:  The United States can’t have a 21st century government unless we’re willing to pay for one.

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More About Paul N. Van de Water

Paul N. Van de Water

Paul N. Van de Water is a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where he specializes in Medicare, Social Security, and health coverage issues.

Full bio | Blog Archive | Research archive at CBPP.org

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