Monday, February 25, 2013

Chicken Little and Molehills

Yesterday the Obama Administration released their list of reductions by state if the sequester kicks in, as it now looks like it will.   Included in the California totals  were several things that caught my interest.   According to the sheet Head Start, the program to offer early childhood education for disadvantaged kids, would lose 8,200 spaces.  When you look at the statistics from the California Head Start Association there are more than 111,000 kids served by the program.     Before I discuss the actual numbers for one program I should discuss something about the sequester. It was initiated because the people we hire to run the government could not make responsible budget decisions - what Aaron Wildavsky once called "No-ing Thyself"     The reductions were established to reduce the level in the growth of governmental spending across the board over an extended period.    At the time this idea was first hatched, the political class told us "don't worry, this will be just the incentive for us to make wiser decisions - it will never come to this."    Two things should be obvious.   First, the political class has demonstrated once again that they cannot act responsibly.   And second, just because the sequester becomes reality does not mean that our political leaders could not come together and make some more responsible reductions.

But let's look a bit closer at Head Start in California.   According to the Census Bureau 6.7% of our population is under 5 years old - the eligibility standard for Head Start.    That means there are about 2.5 million kids - and 111,000 are currently served by Head Start.  (Do the math about 4.4% of the kids under 5 in the state are served by the program.)  By the way in the "Golden State" 14.4% of the population lives below the poverty line.

Nothing would stop the political class either before March 1 or after it from making responsible reductions.   I do not know how many kids are actually assisted by Head Start (I know the number of clients but do not know how effective the program is) but could we not find $82 billion in a multi-trillion budget which was fluff?   Even if we run the scenario out for the full decade could we not find reductions that most reasonable people could agree to?   But then I think about the people we hire to make those decisions.

ADDENDUM - Last September, as a part of the process of setting up sequestration the Administration published a list of reductions including a $2 million reduction for the Drug Intelligence Center.   But as Reason's Mike Riggs pointed out yesterday the DIC was closed about three months before the report was issued.   So much for transparency or accuracy.   

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