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If the sequester goes into effect on March 1, furloughs could start hitting federal workers in April. That wouldn't just mean a hit to the paychecks of nearly two million workers, it could also mean vital services like meat inspection being short-staffed. Approximately 800,000 civilian staffers at the defense department (44 percent of them veterans) could be hit with a 20 percent pay cut due to furloughs, while:
... 15,000 air traffic controllers would be laid off for more than two weeks. There would be the equivalent of 5,000 fewer border patrol agents and 1,000 fewer FBI agents, according to the secretaries of Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, and Education.
Unions that represent federal workers will be able to bargain over things like how furlough days are scheduled, but they won't be able to influence the math of how many workers need to be furloughed for how many days. Neither will the meat industry, which is up in arms about furloughs affecting the number of meat inspections that can be carried out, forcing slowdowns in production. The president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said in a statement that "we are certain the USDA contains other 'non-essential' employees" who could and should be furloughed in place of inspectors. But while the meat industry appears to be taking the view that the allocation of furloughs is the problem and that as such, the Obama administration is responsible for production being slowed because of a lack of inspectors, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pointed the finger back at Congress in a letter to the American Meat Institute:
Unfortunately, unless Congress acts to prevent sequestration, [Food Safety and Inspection Service] will have no choice but to furlough its employees in order to stay within the budget Congress has given it. [...]

Because we understand that furloughing our food safety inspectors would not be good for consumers, the economy, the meat and poultry industry, or our workforce, we view such furloughs as the last option we would implement to achieve the necessary sequestration cut. However, were sequestration to become a reality, it simply would not be possible for FSIS to achieve the requisite level of savings by furloughing non-front line staff alone as your letter suggests.

Not cutting the paychecks of nearly two million workers should be reason enough for Congress to act on the sequester. But if that's not enough, will the threat of meat shortages spur them on?

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 10:55 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Hunger in America, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  they'll probably ship the meat anyway (0+ / 0-)

    The meat companies will argue that their manufacturing process hasn't changed overnight, and if the inspectors were fine with it before they were furloughed, there should be no problem now.  They'll say that they're sure as hell not going to close down the company until Congress passes a budget, and the customers certainly don't want empty shelves.

    Something's wrong when the bad guys are the utopian ones.

    by Visceral on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 11:15:05 AM PST

    •  Except the meat company's lawyers might weigh in (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and remind the operators that the USDA inspections helped protect against lawsuits.

      Notice: This Comment © 2013 ROGNM

      by ROGNM on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 11:33:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  you have to be alive or leave substancial $$$ (0+ / 0-)

        to sue anyone over tainted meat.   The Republican fetish of deregulation will outweigh any concern for the people that might eat tainted food - inspectors are not important in their universe.

        And we sail and we sail and we never see land, just the rum in the bottle and a pipe in my hand...

        by Mortifyd on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 11:39:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  remember the Ford Corvair (0+ / 0-)

        The industry's actions will be dictated by what they determine the most profitable course of action is: settling wrongful death lawsuits from tainted meat or voluntarily maintaining basic sanitation practices.

        Something's wrong when the bad guys are the utopian ones.

        by Visceral on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 01:55:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Corvair is a Chevy product. (0+ / 0-)

          You're thinking of the incredible, flaming Ford -- the Pinto, the Mustang's cheap little brother.

          •  that too (0+ / 0-)

            Both were "unsafe at any speed".

            Something's wrong when the bad guys are the utopian ones.

            by Visceral on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 03:58:58 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Both Were Over-Dramatized (0+ / 0-)

              In a world of 5000 pound body on frame gas-guzzling behemoth freeway locomotives, the Pinto and Corvair were on the failing side of any collision by virtue of their size as were and would be any small cars in those (and current) eras.  Against a Cadillac Escalade, you may be able to buy some immortality with a Mini Cooper, but good luck with that.

              Since the discussion concerns safety and not quality, my response ignores quality issues, and lets face it, American cars other than Corvair and Pinto sure had their share of quality issues.

              Corvair had issues due to oil leakage catching fire in the first mass produced American horizontally opposed air cooled (OK, there was Tucker, but that wasn't mass produced) rear engine and took a lot of heat for that, a fixable defect.  BUT, it out-handled the Corvette.  Hmm, what other auto (besides the VW - why didn't Nader attack that one?) had an air cooled rear engine?  Porsche.  A college acquaintance had a tricked out Corvair, roll cage and all, and there wasn't a domestic car that could even touch it on curves.

              The big Pinto cause for alarm was apparently generated because a gas station attendant didn't replace the gas cap after filling the car, the driver smelled gas and stopped his car over the top of a hill, which was subsequently hit from the rear by a UPS truck (or equivalent).  Boom!  Where do you store 15 gallons of highly explosive liquid fuel in a tiny lightweight car?  Was Pinto the only one which caught flame in a big crash?

    •  Oh well. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, Piren

      My freezer is stocked with vegetable stew and tomato sauce from veggies I grew last summer. Haven't eaten meat in 40 years and would probably have stopped sooner — like right after reading "The Jungle" — except my parents wouldn't have gone for that. But when I hit college —

      Jon Husted is a dick.

      by anastasia p on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 12:10:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good time to go veggie (0+ / 0-)

        Can't say I'm a vegetarian, although I have started to greatly reduce my meat consumption.  I stopped buying it at the grocery store, but will still eat it if I'm out or visiting someone such as my parents.  
        Not that fruits and vegetables can't be contaminated as well, but I think it's much healthier to eliminate meat from your diet, and I think we could all live without it.

    •  All meat has to be inspected by a federal (0+ / 0-)


      Milk does not.  Even in interstate sales.  Milk facilities are inspected for compliance.  As opposed to having every single drop inspected, as in meat.

    •  Bqhatevwr (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nautical Knots

      I understand that horse meat ain't all that bad and can even make ya run faster.

      •  Rec'd for the Scott Brown reference (0+ / 0-)

        Thank you for keeping it alive. Bay Staters should never forget what a farce it was letting him slip into "The People's Seat".  Luckily we now have a real Senator.

        Damn the Regressives, full speed ahead!

        by Nautical Knots on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 10:05:39 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Not just meat, but all inspectors. (6+ / 0-)

    I'm not sure how integral USDA inspectors are to each segment of the industry, but you've got dairy and poultry too. I suspect that other fresh foodstuffs will be impacted. Packaged goods can probably survive off of warehoused items for a while.

    We can move over to FDA, which is already having problems with low production of certain pharmaceuticals, fewer inspectors and reviewers of clinical trials will slow things down.

    But thats what the GOP wants, a new recession to show how serious they are about making the economy suffer.

    •  This, the ramifications are pretty large (4+ / 0-)

      No one wants to do this, why the GOP continues to drive this bus off a cliff astounds me.

      Because obstructionism worked so well for 2012, lets double down on it!

      --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

      by idbecrazyif on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 11:44:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  And vegetable inspectors (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Remember the tainted spinach from a few years back where a lot of people got sick (and some died) from e.coli? Might want to stick with canned/frozen veggies for a while....

      There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

      by Cali Scribe on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 02:16:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  As a dairy owner (0+ / 0-)

      My Federal inspector is also the same person who is hired by the State for the State inspections.

      The difference between milk and meat is that every slaughterhouse has to have a full-time inspector.  Which makes small-time meat production by organic family farms next to impossible.

      Dairies do not.

      I have no idea what the difference is, as milk is more susceptible to pathogens than meat.

    •  not the sequester (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Not A Bot, Sarenth

      But the pursuit of cheap meat that is processed through a bottle neck that insures processors control the market.  There is not reason that a local shop should not be able to buy a cow or pig or whatever, butcher it, and sell it to the local community.  If that shop sold bad meat, it would be subject to lawsuits and criminal intervention.

      The USDA is an insane institution that allows meat to intermixed to the point where it is untraceable, where one bad cut can contaminate a whole lot and sicken people across the country.  At the end of the day the culprits do not see consequences and the process is not improved.

  •  A meat shortage might be good news (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anastasia p, ladybug53

  •  Let them eat Cake! (1+ / 0-)

    Notice: This Comment © 2013 ROGNM

    by ROGNM on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 11:31:08 AM PST

  •  The 15k air traffic controllers worries me more! (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein, 1BQ, bear83, ladybug53, Noddy

    From the BLS, we had 27K controllers in 2010. So about half of them are going to be furloughed!?

    That suggests massive numbers of canceled flights, both commercial and cargo. (Not to mention the increased safety risks.) Even if that meat gets inspected, it's going to have a hard time getting to a lot of places!

    Lots of downstream effects from disrupting transportation networks...

    •  How does that happen? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      coffeetalk, holeworm, ladybug53

      Furloughing half the controllers, when the sequester is supposed to cut a little over 5% of their budget?

      "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

      by Catte Nappe on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 12:00:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have to wonder if that number's correct... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe, decembersue, ladybug53

        Bloomberg says 10% of FAA workers overall and "reduced air-traffic control, longer delays and economic losses." Can't imagine that leads to 50% of ATC.

        The FAA says they only have 15k controllers + 1250 contracted controllers + 9k military controllers, so about 25k total...roughly the BLS number.

        Maybe they meant something like 1500 controllers rather than 15000 in the original linked article? Air traffic controllers are "more redundant" than in other fields, for obvious safety reasons, so I guess you can cut them more before service degrades. (But safety starts degrading sooner...) Over 50% of them does seem implausible though, having dug further.

        •  Yes, it seems it is closer to 9% (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) now calculates that sequestration will require an annual reduction of roughly 5 percent for nondefense programs and roughly 8 percent for defense programs.  However, given that these cuts must be achieved over only seven months instead of 12, the effective percentage reductions will be approximately 9 percent for nondefense programs and 13 percent for defense programs.

          There presumably are expenses they can't cut by 9% or 10%. Need to keep the electricity on, for example. But I still don't see how it gets to a loss of 50% of personnel. Or, given it says "furlough" are we saying they will be off work an extra 2, 3, 4 or whateveer weeks?

          "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

          by Catte Nappe on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 12:24:36 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah, it's apparently 2 weeks for each of the 15k (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Catte Nappe, ladybug53

            ...over a 6-month timeframe. Not all at once, the quote in the diary confused me. :)

            From that article:

            The Defense Department, for instance, said it would have to furlough civilian employees for up to 22 working days over six months, while 15,000 air traffic controllers would be laid off for more than two weeks.
            So about an 8% reduction over the span of the year, not counting the 9k military controllers that may or may not be reduced as well. That could bump the percentage up a good bit. Still not great, but not as devastating.

            All at once wouldn't make any sense in any case...I needed to read the linked article more carefully!

      •  Payroll is the easiest thing to cut (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe, ladybug53

        Before I retired from the Federal government, I was a timekeeper. Payroll is a "known" cost, making it the easiest to cut -- most of the cuts the agencies make will be personnel related.

        The first thing to go will be training, next travel, and after that payroll. After that they'll cut supplies as close to the bone as they can.

        And I'll bet all the air traffic control people will have some furlough days if the sequester happens.

        •  Our agency (0+ / 0-)

          is already there.  We've been furloughed 16 hours a month for the past 3 years (that's a 2 days a month pay cut), our fleet of vehicles has been reduced from 10 to 3, what training we receive we have to pay for ourselves on our own time, our staff has been reduced by over half, and it's been nearly a year since I've had lights on in my office.

          We are never going to regain the lost wages.

          And the Federal employees who will be furloughed will also never regain their lost wages. Next to lay-offs, furloughs are the cruelest way to punish employees for doing their job.

          All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

          by Noddy on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 03:53:57 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Not Military Contracts (0+ / 0-)

          Look for an immediate emergency bill granting exemption to the military industrial complex from the sequester.  Unilateral GOP support and half the Dems will vote for it.

    •  Need to start by cancelling flights from Dulles (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, holeworm

      National and BWI. Make things really inconvenient for the Representatives and Senators who can't drive or ride the train home for the weekend.

      Filibuster reform, 2013 - woulda, coulda, shoulda.

      by bear83 on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 01:19:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Do we oppose cuts in defense & war footing... (0+ / 0-)

    ...because they will mean (temporary) job losses? Virtually all budget cuts are equivalent to job losses. All of the depts. do defense push all of the cuts to DoD related work. How important is it to retain military and defense dept. jobs in over 130 countries and over 1000 bases world wide? For how long? At what cost? Could it be better to take the once in a lifetime chance for draconian cuts? Could we take the short term hit and transition those newly unemployed into infrastructure investments?  

  •  Are there any real cost reductions here? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coffeetalk, Catesby

    I spent close to twenty years working in the meat industry at a USDA-inspected facility.  We had eight full-time inspectors and the plant was billed for their time by the USDA.  Has this changed?

  •  There's joke there based on your headline, but... (0+ / 0-)

    ... never mind.

  •  Privatize the inspections (0+ / 0-)

    Let the meat producers self-inspect. Problem solved. Government is bad. Privatization solves everything..

  •  GOP Congresscritters can order meat from EU (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    so why should they care?  Oh wait, um..

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 01:47:05 PM PST

  •  I have always wondered (0+ / 0-)

    why meat inspectors have to be on-site, full time, at every location, no matter how small.

    Dairy is far more dangerous than meat, and we have inspections without notice.  But we don't have a Federal dude camping out at our place.

  •  good thing I just stocked up on beans and rice (4+ / 0-)

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 07:33:27 PM PST

  •  It's obviously bad policy... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...but the sequester IS the policy that debt/deficit hawks have purported to pursue over the last 30 years. Why are they against it now when they actually have a mechanism to do exactly what they want?

    it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses

    by Addison on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 07:44:41 PM PST

  •  Beef shortages?? (0+ / 0-)

    Oh my gosh... you people wrote the book on "fear mongering" I'd say...
    You make me want to laugh.

  •  of course it would lead to meat shortages (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    what else would you expect?  Shorter lines at the airport?

    We could all be gnawing on soup bones before that's gonna happen.

    When the tap gets turned off, it will always impact the things you want, not the things you could care less about.  The bureaucracy will make sure of that.

    The USDA doesn't police the meat industry now, fully funded, and it won't police it much less in the immediate future, half-funded.  If any of their employees get furloughed, that won't in any way impact the degree of oversight that the meat industry receives.

    Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 07:54:28 PM PST

  •  Great diary, but must you post a pic of Karl (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nautical Knots

    Rove's brain? /snark

    What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

    by commonmass on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 07:56:35 PM PST

  •  Even Erskine Bowles says "stupid, stupid, stupid" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sarenth, Nautical Knots

    "When somebody asked me about the sequester, I said it’s stupid, stupid, stupid. No business cuts like that when they need to reduce their cost."

  •  all part of the plan - they can just fire (0+ / 0-)

    them all, and the industry can "self police".

    big badda boom : GRB 090423

    by squarewheel on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 08:18:54 PM PST

  •  Two of my co-workers.. (0+ / 0-)

    ...Are slated to be furloughed. Because my wages come from a non-appropriated source of funds, my job is still safe (for now). I'm worried for them, and for our patients who will suffer from staff shortages. Not that many federal employees make bank, believe me. Not sure how slashing their pay is supposed to help, short of the proverbial drop in the bucket.

  •  I Knew This Had a Silver Lining (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rich in PA


  •  Food Safety (0+ / 0-)

    Is a serious issue that those in DC don't seem to take too seriously.

    I'm not going anywhere. I'm standing up, which is how one speaks in opposition in a civilized world. - Ainsley Hayes

    by jillian on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 10:24:06 PM PST

  •  22 days by "end of the year" (0+ / 0-)

    Remember, by "year" they mean the end of that is basically a month without pay in the next seven months.  Local businesses in the DC area are going to Congress to beg them to do something about this.  The lack of cash will flow through the rest of the economy and it will have a long lasting economic impact on the area.

    I don't understand why the Republicans think this is a good idea...definitely not going to win them many points.

    "When a nation goes down, or a society perishes, one condition may always be found; they forgot where they came from. They lost sight of what had brought them along." --Carl Sandburg

    by Mote Dai on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 10:28:39 PM PST

  •  Department and agency heads will furlow ... (0+ / 0-)

    ... the most critical employees ahead of less critical ones, because that will place more pressure on Congress.  It's all politics, even for appointed agency heads.  Maybe especially for appointed agency heads, who serve at the president's pleasure.

    As for the meat, surely we as a nation can do without our horse meatball ravioli for a few weeks.  Oops, that's the UK.  It could never happen here.

    The wisdom of my forebears ... Two wise people will never agree. Man begins in dust and ends in dust — meanwhile it's good to drink some vodka. A man studies until he's seventy and dies a fool. Some of my best friends are Catholics, really.

    by Not A Bot on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 11:55:50 PM PST

  •  I don't care. Bring on the sequester anyway. (0+ / 0-)

    The sequester is more progressive than anything that stands any chance of getting through our current setup.  

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 04:38:09 AM PST

  •  Two words. (0+ / 0-)

    Sinclair Lewis

    Facts don't stop being facts just because no one listens to them. - Aldous Huxley

    by bisleybum on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 04:43:37 AM PST

  •  Something the 'Cons will retreat on if they (0+ / 0-)

    allow the sequester to be allowed to go on.....

    Golf Balls

    Psst!!!......Mittens you are more of a poor loser than I thought.

    by wbishop3 on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 04:44:22 AM PST

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