Sequestration: A Symptom of Washington Dysfunction

Published Mar 8, 2013. By Lisa Myers.


LISA MYERS, NBC NEWS SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today was the last day of White House tours for a while because of budget cuts ordered by the Secret Service.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m very sad for the people that will not be able to see the inside of the gorgeous White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For a lot of people, it`s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go in the White House.

MYERS: Yet, earlier this week, a 20-car motorcade with tons of security took the president across town for dinner with senators to talk about the budget. And there could be more of that if the president plays golf this weekend.

Why is this happening? Sequestration.

(on camera): The government officially defines sequestration as a process of automatic, largely across-the-board spending reductions to meet or enforce budget goals. But it`s come to represent the utter dysfunction of Washington.

(voice-over): Today, the Army announced its suspending tuition assistance to soldiers, which quickly drew fire on Facebook. "There are other ways to cut spending than taking away tuition assistance for soldiers." "And why not cut the president`s vacation funding instead"?

The Federal Aviation Administration says it may furlough air traffic controllers and close towers, creating delays. Yet, it`s spending more than $20 million a year giving money away to tiny airports like this one, which may get one private plane landing a week.

Then at the Department of Homeland Security, TSA is threatening to furlough screeners and create long lines. Critics say the department could save much more by cutting from a grant program, which last year paid for a $286,000 armored personnel carrier for Keene, New Hampshire.

ROBERT BIXBY, THE CONCORD COALITION: Well, the sequester may be a stupid policy, but there is no reason to implement it stupidly. So I think people look at it as gamesmanship, and a continuation of political dysfunction in Washington.

MYERS: Meanwhile, outside the White House, this is what some people are saying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I understand budgets. But something needs to be done. They still need to allow tours. That`s part of what we have a right of as Americans.

MYERS: Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.