News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, March 8, 2013

'Fat and Happy' Reston to be the Epicenter of Federal Budget Cuts, Says Newspaper Not From Reston

Fatty fat.jpegTo explore the "human impact" of "sequestration," the fancy New York Times dispatched a "reporter" -- which is kind of like a blogger, except they occasionally put on hard shoes and leave the house -- to "check out the story," as we've heard them say in movies about newspapers. Said reporter apparently took the Acela down to DC and, using highly honed investigative journalism skills, found himself on the 595 to Reston.

To listen to the human side of sequestration, wait in line here for the 595 bus to Reston, Va., a journey across a suburbia grown fat and happy on a federal spending boom in the past decade, primarily military.
Fat and happy? Sounds like a positive story!
While the rest of the country experienced a corrosive recession, unemployment in Arlington County, home of the Pentagon, never rose above 5 percent. Nearby Fairfax County, with a cyberintelligence industry that took off after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, gorged on government contracts to private companies.
Wow, that turned quickly. Haters gonna hate.

But there's no denying that the impact of federal budget cuts will have an impact on the area, even if the sequester, whatever that is, is addressed by Congress.
The Washington metropolitan area, especially Northern Virginia, is in line to experience the largest economic hit of any region from the $85 billion in spending cuts that President Obama made official late Friday.

Because the automatic cuts, known as sequestration, fall unevenly across the country, many Americans are greeting them with a shrug. Their nonchalance is heightened because the 2.4 percent lopped from a federal budget of $3.55 trillion is relatively small and will not happen all at once. Moreover, Congressional Republicans have accused the White House of exaggerating the impact for political gain.

But in Northern Virginia the cuts will be deeply felt, economists said, assuming there is no political deal to undo them, a dimming prospect. The White House said the Defense Department would furlough 90,000 civilian employees based in Virginia, the most of any state, reducing their salaries by 20 percent this year.

The ripple effect, as those employees pare expenses, put off car purchases and delay buying a home, is expected to be large. Some economists predict that Virginia will slip into recession.

“No more movies, no more out-to-dinners, no more fun,” Robin Roberts, a civilian budget employee in the Defense Department, said as she waited for the 595 outside the Pentagon for the ride home. She and her husband, who is retired, have canceled their summer vacation. They switched to a cheaper phone plan. “It’s just pay the mortgage, pay the utilities, no more frills.”

Americans far from Washington who say government spending is reckless and unsustainable may not shed a tear for its suburban counties, 6 of which are among the 10 richest in the country, according to the census. But that prosperity has largely rained down on government contractors; federal employees, especially younger ones, depend on their middle-class wages.

“Most of my paycheck goes toward child care,” said Sarah Stein, another rider of the 595. “We’ve cut out what we can cut, and we’re going to be in trouble.”

The Pentagon has told civilian employees to plan on taking 22 days off without pay. Ms. Stein said she would not be able to save on child care even on the days she is home. “We still have to pay for five days a week, whether we go or not,” she said. “People are just very worried.”
And with 37 percent of the region's economy dependent on Uncle Sugar, we can't help but wonder what this means for all the awesome bollardy development slated for Reston. The mauvescraper on Reston Parkway, to give just one example, is unlikely to start reaching skyward until it has a tenant, and if there are fewer dollars flowing to the bomb-to-dolphin-strapping defense contracting industry, it's hard to picture a company forking over the cash for a "trophy" office building. If Once the dust from the current budget gridlock settles, it'll be interesting to see what happens to the area's long-term trends. It's another sign that the champagne wishes and caviar dreams of developers may never come to their full fruition, and we may be stuck in a hellish future of midrise garden apartments, golf courses, and Ford Focuses. The horror!

Update: Our hometown newspaper also weighs in.


  1. Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.

  2. Well, I wouldn't put too much stock in any idiot analyst/reporter who can't figure out that 22 days from 210+ workdays per year is not 20%. The Sequestered might take a 20% hit in any given week, assuming that they only get Sequestered for one day per week at most. Still, the overall impact on any given salary is just a skosh more than 10%.

    As for me, I've never understood the average American penchant for (1) living hand-to-mouth and (2) working oneself to death. I'm actually looking forward to an additional 22 days of vacation, even if it is unpaid. Heck, when I first got hired, I tried to negotiate an extra 2 weeks of vacation with a proportional reduction in pay, but the company nixed that. I'm guessing that they were afraid that if anybody found out that I was starting out at four weeks of vacation per year, everybody would want it as well, but without the proportional reduction in pay.

    I only ask that The Powers That Be at my agency put as many of those extra days off on the really hot days of summer so that me and the kids can go to the beach. I'll take the days off, even if I have to pack lunch instead of paying for overpriced boardwalk concessions. A few beautiful Spring days would be nice as well, especially around Cherry Blossom time. And April 15th of would be nice as well, because I'm planning on commemorating the 101st anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on the night of April 14th.

    Anyway, Goobs and Beltway Bandits, the American people as represented by Congress are about to throw a bunch of lemons at you. You might as well start figuring out now how to start making lemonade out of it, otherwise you're likely just to wind up with a sour puss.

  3. There is persistent and sizeable waste in the Defense budget. Unfortunately, the sequester desn't really get at the root problem in that sector, much as it doesn't deal with the structural problems with entitlements.
    The penchant for expensive and arguably unneccesary weapon systmes and the Pentagon's problemaic contracting procedures remains persistent. To the extent that NoVa companies are profiting from these white elephants, we deserve to get a haircut. There may be less growth, fewer new development projects, less traffic and lower home prices, all good things in the eyes of many. I will take a wack at the two littoralship programs that the Navy wants, reductions in the too-expensive and under-performing F-35, reductions on tank and amrored vehicle production, ending our current foreign engagaments in Iraq and Afghanistan, redundant information systems contracts...the list is literally endless! That means fewer NoVa jobs then so be it.

  4. There is persisent and sizable waste in ALL government agencies and a complete unwillingness to do what Robin Roberts in the story says her family will be doing -- tightening belts and economizing. Why is something that is fundamental to human nature so unthinkable to bureaucracies?

    I agree with the Convict -- we could all use a little introspection about where our priorities lie. Perhaps WE can show our "leaders" how it's done.

    And if your pay doesn't cover your child care costs ... um ... perhaps you ought to take care of your own kids and forego the travel expenses to work, work clothes, etc. and enjoy those kids while you have them. They are only ours for a really short time.


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