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President Barack Obama. (Associated Press)

President Barack Obama. (Associated Press)

Editorial: Battle-tested Louisiana won’t scare too easily

Last Modified: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 5:31 PM

If Barack Obama thinks he’s terrifying Louisiana taxpayers with his alarms over imminent budget cuts, he may be sorely mistaken.

The administration’s scare tactics have come in the form of state-by-state predictions of peril. Count Louisiana among those 50 tales of woe. Congress must act to fight off draconian budget cuts by week’s end, the president warns, or $85 billion in automatic federal cuts will go into effect.

If that happens, what looms ahead for Louisiana is $15.8 million in federal cuts for K-12 education, about $2.5 million in funding for clean environment, some $35.9 million in lost pay for civilian employees of the Department of Defense, $1.3 million in decreases for treatment for substance abuse. That’s what the feds are warning. But it’s more than a matter of dollars and cents for Louisiana, the administration suggests. Real jobs are imperiled.

For example, 220 public school teachers and aides might lose employment. Some 7,000 DOD workers might face furloughs. Job searches for more than 17,000 Louisiana people may be affected, the government warns, because some $509,000 in federal money won’t be coming here for job search assistance, referral and placement.

There’s more. We’ll have 8,000 fewer tests for HIV, because of a loss of federal funds; 400 fewer victims of domestic violence will be served. About 540 fewer low-income students will receive aid; some 1,400 fewer Head Start and Early Head Start students will be served. Sounds rough.

Or is it really that bad? The federal cuts that may be mandated Friday, pending no action by the Congress, represent only 2.4 percent of the $3.6 trillion federal budget. It was the president himself, along with Congress, that proposed these austerity measures in 2011. If both parties thought this was a bad idea, why did they sign off on it?

In fact, some experts believe that the severity of the cuts will not match the talk, that because of how the federal government disburses money, the impact in this fiscal year may be as little as half as the $85 billion estimates. Others believe that any ill effects of the automatic cuts will be swallowed up in the $16 trillion national economy.

Others, of course — count among them many of the political and public sector regulars — see only doom. For example, the unemployed will see a cut in their benefits, which is unfortunate. But many of the nation’s employed have also been experiencing cuts in their own take-home pay for years, which have come in the forms of job furloughs, reduced hours, overtime. Things are tough all over.

Five years into the Jindal administration, Louisianians are familiar with how mid-year government budget cuts work. Does Obama scare us? Hardly. We’re tested.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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